Gaya Special Feature: Terengganu
Image by Studiyo Mung. stu dyomung/ ter beautiful nge ps/sekmu
B E A U T I F U L T E R E N G G A N U -Malaysiaâ€™s Hidden JemTe x t b y RA I H A N F O Z I A N , RAY YA N H A RI ES , A N I S ROZALINA RAMLI (CONVERGENCE MAGAZINE) & AZMI ABDULLAH (TOURISM TERENGGANU)
Beautiful Terengganu is a must-visit Peninsular Malaysia East Coast state that encapsulates treasures of nature, tradition and heritage. Terengganu State Tourism, Culture and Information Technology Committee Chairman, the Honourable Haji Ariffin Deraman, strongly believes that travellers to Terengganu are bound to be enchanted by its host of wonders ranging from emerald islands surrounded by crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and cool splashes of waterfalls to batik, songket, wood carving and various other handicrafts with exquisite designs, including rich local culture. The following are some of Terengganuâ€™s off-the-beaten-track experiences that travellers should not miss when visiting the state.
1. Setiu Wetlands State Park – Sustaining the Nature, Benefitting the Community The Setiu Wetlands is made up of three river basins that converge into one continuous 14-kilometre long lagoon. It has nine interconnected ecosystems: sand islands, mudflats, mangroves, peat swamp, riparian forest, seagrass beds and sandy beaches, including a lagoon filled with brackish water. Out of 23,000 hectares of land in Setiu, 432 hectares has been gazetted as State Park under Terengganu’s State Park Enactment 2017. The wetlands are crucial because they support biodiversity, control flood, mitigate erosion, function as natural grounds for aqua culture breeding, provide abundant resources like wild honey, crabs, clams, oysterfarming, including rushes for mat-weaving. Nature lovers can witness endangered terrapins and green turtles thriving in their natural habitats, making the wetlands their home. It is also a favourite stopover point for migratory continental birds coming from as far as Siberia and Northern China during Northern Hemisphere winter. Travellers are recommended to go on a slow boat tour to observe the mangroves and stop by at one of the fish breeding farms in the lagoon or saunter leisurely along its boardwalk. Contact Ayah Ku (+6 017 930 6736) of Persatuan Sahabat Alam Setiu for an informative guided tour around the wetlands. Facebook : Sahabat Setiu 2. Nature Redefined at Lata Kolam Air Deru Ecopark For outdoor adventure seekers, Lata Kolam Air Deru Ecopark offers rugged experiences and accommodations such as camping, hammocking and even glamping via its three ‘tubotels’ and two dormitories for families or groups. Located a few kilometres away from La Hotspring and Lata Tembakah in Besut, the place offers activities such as river-crossing, flying fox, archery, combat archery, mountain-biking, ATV ride, jungle-trekking and waterrafting. The best time to enjoy rafting using rubber dinghy is during the monsoon months (October to February) when more water flows from the hinterland. Air Deru means soothing sounds of flowing water where natural pools are formed, suitable for those wanting to take a dip. Those who prefer not to indulge in any activity could simply enjoy the symphony of the jungle comprising the sounds of water, rustling leaves, birds and insects. Plans are underway to provide more accommodation and facilities, including fruit orchards and an obstacle course. Contact Kaswadi (+6 013 927 6998) and Facebook : Lata Kolam Air Deru Ecopark for more information. 3. A Simple Approach to Hospitality in an Oil Palm Plantation Not many know that there is a survival campsite in Seri Bandi in Kemaman offering back-to-nature experience with accommodations in the form of hammocking, camping or glamping. Located in an oil palm plantation, it is an ideal place to organise survival camp, motivational camp, team-building, self-reflection getaway and weekend family retreats. Due to its expansive grounds, this ‘palmstay’ does not feel too crowded even when there are many travellers staying at any one time. Activities include trail-hiking, fishing and visiting the nearby Jeram Penitih waterfall. The dishes prepared here are unique such as it’s grilled catfish, fern sprout and other raw herbs served together with rice on a large leaf. Contact Che Ghani (+6 019 917 4012) for prior booking. Facebook : Kelip Kelip Palmstay Seri Bandi.
every egg laid on Teluk Mak Nik Beach has higher chance of survival. Turtles are endangered species and the government is working hard to control the number before they go extinct. Turtles could lay up to 100 eggs at any one time. Once they are done, staff from the conservation programme record the number of eggs and transfer them to a special hatchery to minimise the risk of those eggs being eaten by predators. At Teluk Mak Nik Beach, travellers can join in releasing baby turtles into the sea or even witness turtles come to shore at night to lay eggs. Call Pak Su (+6 013 906 4828) to arrange for a guided tour to the hatchery as well as turtle-watching at secluded beaches within the vicinity. For further information, visit www.dof.gov.my. 5. Unbelievably Lucid River in Malaysia Sungai Bangan is one of the least visited rivers in Terengganu and largely untouched by human activities. Recently discovered by hikers, the river is located within a beautiful nature reserve park comprising the areas of Gunung Chemerong, Berembun and Langsir (CBL for short) in Hulu Dungun. Travellers need to spend at least two days to complete the trail, preferably with experienced hikers and local rangers, so they need to be physically fit. Hikers know it is definitely worth the journey when they are able to plunge into the cooling and lucid water that is rejuvenating beyond words! The trail starts at Hutan Lipur Chemerong within Hulu Dungun, roughly 100 kilometres away from Kuala Terengganu. Besides crystal clear water, this is the place where one of the highest vertical waterfalls in Malaysia, Chemerong, is located. Hikers then make way to the peak of Mount Chemerong and Berembun, spending the night at Langsir waterfall campsite to watch the panoramic sunrise from the peak of the waterfall in the morning after while getting ready for the next leg of the journey, which is another three hours to reach Bangan River. Contact the South Terengganu District Forest Office (+6 09 848 1404) for permit and Siti (+6 09 845 2978) for experienced rangers. Facebook : Jabatan Perhutanan Negeri Terengganu www.trgforestry.terengganu.gov.my. 6. Visiting the Islamic world landmarks at Taman Tamadun Islam Taman Tamadun Islam (TTI or the Islamic Civilisation Park) offers an immersive experience relating to Islamic civilisation through the replicas of 22 significant monuments erected in this park that greatly contribute towards the advancement of Islam. Among them are The Sacred Mosque (Masjidil Haram) in Saudi Arabia, Al-Hambra Citadel in Spain, Kalyan Minaret in Uzbekistan, Lutfallah Mosque in Iran and more. There are choices of trams, buggies or rented bicycles available for travellers to complete their tour of this park. Alternatively, they can also explore at their own pace by foot to learn about the monuments and Islam more closely. One of Terengganu’s icons, the Crystal Mosque, is just a five-minute walk away from TTI. So, after completing the tour of TTI, travellers can head to the Crystal Mosque and be fascinated by its dazzling architecture. Travellers to TTI can also cruise the scenic Terengganu River while stopping over at the State Museum and other interesting attractions along the way like Pulau Duyung, the traditional fishing village of Seberang Takir, and Payang Market. The cruise starts and ends at the jetty close to the Crystal Mosque. There are also night cruises with dining experience where passengers can savour authentic Terengganu or western dishes while taking in the mesmerising panorama.
4. Up Close and Personal with Turtles
Taman Tamadun Islam opens daily except Tuesdays. Call +6 09 627 8888 or browse www.tti.com.my for more information.
All animal lovers should not miss the opportunity to visit Teluk Mak Nik Beach in Kemaman, which recorded the highest number of turtle landings. The Turtle Conservation Programme has been set up here to ensure that
Browse beautifulterengganu.com for more information. Like, Follow & Share Beautiful Terengganu Malaysia on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
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Contents ISSUE 13.3
Cover Illustration by Emila Yusof
w w w. iss uu. co m /gayatrave l
014. Editorial Jottings
Gaya Special Feature
016. Starbucks Malaysia Launches Jumbo Cookies In Conjunction With Its World’s First Signing Store 2nd Anniversary 018. AirAsia Champions Asean Further With New Route To Phu Quoc, Vietnam 020. Our Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur Takes Centre Stage In City’s Famous Skyline 012
Gaya Traveller 025. Idyllic Ireland in 9 Days
Gaya Dine & Café
034. Nobu Kuala Lumpur . Where World Class Gastronomy Meets Hollywood Bon Vivant in South East Asia
040. PERAK World of Wonders: Gaya Travel Magazine’s Top Picks! 054. Rediscovering Labuan, The Pearl of Borneo 066. Trekking the Heritage of Bario Highlands 072. Exploring Kansai Through the Stomach - Part II 080. Following the Beats of Selangor via Rentak Selangor International 2018 086. #JomJohor2018 094. VIP Tour Around South Thailand 098. Two-Day and a Half Jaunt in Magnetic Bali 101. Kedah & Perlis: Northern Malaysia’s Agrotourism Hotspots 104. A Bit of Everything in Macao 109. Finding Anambas: A Newly Discovered Haven 112 Club Med Bintan X Lacoste 116 Lullabied by Laidback Lombok
Hotels & Resorts 122 . 124. 126. 128.
The Nest House Melaka: Thoughtful, Tasteful and Joyful Vivanta Taj Rebak Marina Island, Langkawi First International Hotel in the heart of Chow Kit: Hilton Garden Inn Sheraton Petaling Jaya: The Game-Changer
132. Zahariz Khuzaimah
the island that offer equally breathtaking views such as Kuta Mandalika beach, Tanjung Aan and Bukit Merese. In short, it would truly be a shame if travellers entirely give Lombok a miss just because of the incidents mentioned since the island has so much to offer. Travellers will also be doing a noble cause by helping Lombok return to normalcy when they visit and spend money on the island, boosting the local economy.
As I am writing this, the Indonesian island of Lombok’s eastern and northern side had just experienced several earthquakes and tremors, chiefly among them were the one on 29 July 2018 that claimed 14 lives and destroyed 90% of the hiking trail up to Mount Rinjani, and another one on 5 August 2018, killing over 400 persons. These quakes were not only felt throughout Lombok but also in the eastern and southern parts of neighbouring Bali. Tourists fled Lombok in droves, while the Indonesian authorities have been deploying disaster relief efforts to affected areas. At the same time, Bali Government Tourism Office issued a statement that Bali remains unaffected, and that Ngurah Rai International Airport only sustained minor damage and business goes on as usual, which is good news for travellers seeking a short break at the Island of the Gods (page 98). Why am I touching on this? Because despite the calamity that befell Lombok, we hope travellers would not totally shun the destination, and instead return to the island when the dust settles. The island has always been one of our favourite getaway destinations in Indonesia because of its pristine nature, rugged beauty and the lack of tourists crowding its beaches, maybe with the exception of Gili Trawangan (see page 116). Travellers who intend to avoid Lombok’s quake-hit areas should head to places south of
Still on the subject of Indonesian island destinations, be sure to also read up on Club Med Bintan partnering with the fashion brand Lacoste to elevate travellers’ golfing experience (page 112) and Shahida Sakeri’s experience exploring the recently introduced Anambas archipelago (page 109), which can be accessed from Johor Bahru, the capital of the Malaysian state of Johor, which in itself has its own charms (page 86). Travellers who prefer to stick to Malaysia are recommended to learn about Selangor’s traditional performing arts (page 80), which surely delight culture vultures and heritage buffs. They can then proceed to Perak (page 40) to enjoy the state’s diverse tourism offerings, and continue northwards to visit the agrotourism hotspots in Kedah and Perlis (page 101). For more unique Malaysian experiences, travellers should fly to the up-and-coming duty-free island of Labuan (page 54), which lies off-coast Sabah, or trek along the Kelabit ancestral trails in the Bario Highlands of Sarawak (page 66). Those who have the means to travel even further should consider visiting the enigmatic Southern Thailand (page 94), pulsating Macao (page 104), gastronomically exciting Kansai (page 72) and idyllic Ireland (page 25). May all of you find this issue enriching and inspirational. See in the next issue & happy travels! JUHAN KAMARUDDIN@JEREMY KHALIL
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Gaya Special Feature
STAR BUCKS MALAYS I A LAUNCHES J UMB O COOK IES IN CONJUNC T I O N WI T H I TS WO R LD ’ S FIRST SIGNING STO R E 2 ND A NNI V ERSARY Starbucks® Jumbo Cookies to be retailed nationwide, with RM1 of every purchase channeled to the Silent Teddies Bakery
In conjunction with the world’s first Starbucks Signing Store 2nd Anniversary celebration, Starbucks Malaysia announced the launch of the Starbucks Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies across all its stores throughout Malaysia. For every purchase of the cookies at Starbucks, RM1 will be channeled to the Silent Teddies Bakery, a social enterprise started by the Community Service Centre for the deaf (CSCD) to support their programs and its schools for the Deaf children.
Each Starbucks® Jumbo Cookie are unique as they are all handmade with no preservatives added. The cookies will be priced at RM 6.90, and will gradually be rolled out to all Starbucks stores nationwide, including East Malaysia, starting from 8 August 2018 onwards. Starbucks Malaysia has also launched the exclusive Signing Store 2nd Anniversary merchandise which are only available at the Starbucks Signing Store at Bangsar Village II.
“It is heart-warming to see how Malaysians are coming together to support the under-represented groups in Malaysia. I am especially inspired by how the Starbucks Signing Store has provided a platform for the Deaf community to work and also to continue developing soft skills that would allow them to live a fulfilling life. With the help of corporations like Starbucks, I believe there is potential for more workplaces in Malaysia to become more inclusive, and more diverse.” said Yang Berhormat Puan Hannah Yeoh, Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development when she officiated the Starbucks Signing Store’s 2nd anniversary celebration.
A uniquely uplifting Starbucks Experience Inside the Starbucks Signing Store, customers will be familiar with what they see and smell: the rich aroma of the finest Arabica coffee, served by partners in the iconic green aprons in a warm, bustling environment. But while Deaf partners engage with customers with the enthusiasm, passion and craft that they expect from Starbucks, they deliver the iconic Starbucks Experience in a uniquely uplifting way.
As part of the continuous learning and development initiatives at Starbucks, the Starbucks Signing Store in Malaysia now houses a total of nine Deaf baristas who are 100% certified coffee masters. The Deaf Coffee Masters in Malaysia will be distinguishable by black aprons that feature a special embroidery with ‘Starbucks’ in Malaysian Sign Language. In addition, these Deaf baristas are also qualified to conduct coffee chat sessions with the public using sign language much like the baristas at the Starbucks Reserve™ stores in Malaysia. Chief Executive Officer of Berjaya Food Berhad and Managing Director of Starbucks Malaysia and Brunei, Mr. Sydney Quays said, “A big part of what we do at Starbucks is to create a culture of diversity and inclusion. Through this partnership with Silent Teddies Bakery, we hope to further improve the lives of the Deaf community than just providing them with job opportunities. Being the first country to introduce the Starbucks Signing Store concept into the world was a stepping stone for us. Its success has even inspired our North American Starbucks partners to learn and study our business model, which has now materialized into the first Starbucks in the United States which plans to open this October.”
When customers go to order, they will notice something different, as the usual greeting and sound of baristas calling out beverage orders is replaced by sign language. Customers place orders using a simple menu card which they mark before passing it to the barista and Deaf partners use handwritten notes to communicate with customers. Upon placing the order, each customer is given a number on the receipt and once the beverage has been prepared, the number is displayed on a screen telling them it’s ready. Strengthening Communities across Asia Starbucks Malaysia has a proud history of employing underrepresented groups in the workplace. This includes the launch of the Starbucks VIP Program three years ago to attract mature partners who are 55 years of age and above. As part of the program, Starbucks provides flexible work hours and other benefits for seniors. There are currently more than 10 VIP partners working in Starbucks Malaysia stores, the oldest being 73 years old. For more information, please visit the Starbucks Malaysia website at www.starbucks.com.my.
Yang Berhormat Puan Hannah Yeoh (left), Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development and Mr. Sydney Quays (right), Chief Executive Officer of Berjaya Food Berhad and Managing Director of Starbucks Malaysia & Brunei celebrating the world’s first Starbucks Signing Store’s 2nd Anniversary.
A I RA S I A CHA M P IO N S A SEA N
FU RT H ER W ITH N E W ROUTE TO P HU QUOC , V I E TN AM AirAsia continues to strengthen its Asean connectivity with the launch of direct services between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Phu Quoc, Vietnam. The four weekly flights will commence on 2 November 2018 Phu Quoc is the largest island in Vietnam that is home to a diverse landscape featuring lush forests, crystal clear beaches and towering mountains. Spencer Lee, Head of Commercial AirAsia Malaysia said, “We are delighted to be the first airline to launch direct services from Kuala Lumpur to one of Asean’s best-kept secrets, Phu Quoc. As a truly Asean airline, we’re committed to enable more people to visit more places in this region. Our guests can connect seamlessly to Phu Quoc via Kuala Lumpur from 20 cities in 10 countries, including China, India, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia. Travellers from any country can also visit Phu Quoc visa-free for up to 30 days, making this paradise more accessible. “We hope to contribute to the social and economic development of Phu Quoc through the power of connectivity. We look forward to working with the local government to develop Phu Quoc into a world class tourist destination.” AirAsia is offering special introductory all-in-fares from Kuala Lumpur to Phu Quoc from RM90*. These fares are available for booking on airasia.com and the AirAsia mobile app from 8 August to 19 August 2018 for the travel period from 2 November 2018 to 29 March 2019. BigPay members will enjoy zero processing fees when making payment using BigPay card. BIG members can also redeem a one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur to Phu Quoc with as little as 100 BIG Points (base fare only). Phu Quoc marks AirAsia Malaysia’s 59th unique route and the fifth route into Vietnam. Besides Phu Quoc, AirAsia also flies to four other destinations in Vietnam including Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi and Nha Trang from Malaysia. Phu Quoc offers a slice of paradise for sun worshippers with 150 km long, beautiful coastline. Travellers can explore the three main regions in the district which are Phu Quoc island, Hon Thom and An Thoi Archipelago. Phu Quoc is part of the Kien Giang Province which was recognised by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Reserve in 2006. 018
There are plenty of beautiful beaches in Phu Quoc. The popular ones include Long Beach, Ong Lang Beach, Ganh Dau Beach, and Starfish Beach, offering stunning views of the sunset and crystal clear waters to cool off in. Among the must-do activities include island exploration; visiting the Ham Ninh Village for a glimpse of a local fishing village; Suoi Tranh Waterfall surrounded in greeneries, caves and rock pools; savouring fresh seafood and local Vietnamese bites at the Dinh Cau Night Market; and more. For latest AirAsia news, activities and promotions, please follow AirAsia on Twitter (twitter.com/AirAsia) and Facebook (facebook.com/AirAsia). *Promotional all-in-fares quoted are for one-way travel only inclusive of taxes and fees. Fare shown are for BIG members only. Terms and conditions apply. Flight Schedule for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) – Phu Quoc,Vietnam (PQC): Route
Kuala Lumpur - Phu Quoc
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
Phu Quoc - Kuala Lumpur
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday
Spencer Lee, AirAsia Malaysia Head of Commercial, unveiling AirAsia’s new route from Kuala Lumpur to Phu Quoc, Vietnam.
F OUR S E AS ONS H OT EL K UA L A LU M P U R TA KE S CE NT R E STAG E IN C IT Y’ S FAM OU S SKYL IN E The luxury lifestyle hotel has a new address in the third tallest building in Malaysia, adjacent to the Petronas Towers and Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Park in the Golden Triangle district Rising 65 storeys above the busy streets of the capital, the all-new Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur welcomes its guests to dine, drink, shop, relax, entertain, meet and stay; for the select few, they can call Four Seasons as their new home. The entire property comprises 209 guest rooms and suites, 27 serviced apartments for long-term staying guests and Four Seasons Private Residences. For General Manager Tom Roelens and his team of dedicated service specialists, it’s the end of one long journey of preparation, and the start of a new one as they welcome their first guests. “As the hotel comes to life, we look forward to the day when it would be filled with people – international travellers in the city for business or leisure, local guests in our restaurants and spa, and the many residents who are becoming part of the extended Four Seasons family here in Kuala Lumpur,” he gleams. Acclaimed Four Seasons veteran and Executive Chef Junious Dickerson oversees the hotel’s culinary program, with half-dozen restaurants and lounges, including the high-style Yun House for Cantonese specialities by Executive Chef Jimmy Wong, CurATE show kitchen, and Bar Trigona, a temple of modern cocktail culture presided by the award-winning Head Bartender Ashish Sharma. Leisure facilities are highlighted by an outdoor pool oasis with private cabanas and adjacent bar and grill, and an eight-treatment room spa offering a carefully designed menu inspired by Malaysian healing traditions and latest global therapies. There’s also a large fitness centre to round up one’s healthy living routine. Directly connected to the Hotel and residential tower is a retail podium, The Shoppes at Four Seasons Place, which includes a selection of luxury retail and dining outlets spread over six floors and highlighted by Decadent by Four Seasons for the ultimate in sweet treats and The Laundry Shoppe, a luxury laundry boutique. 020
Reservations can be made by calling +6 03 2382 8888 or booking online via www.fourseasons.com. www.fourseasons.com/kualalumpur/
ESCAPE + EXPLORE + EXPERIENCE
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IRELAND in 9 Days
Apart from Riverdance, leprechauns, Guinness Stout, a handful of boybands and entertainers, admittedly there were not much that we know about Ireland. For the uninitiated, let us clarify that Ireland in an island divided into two: Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom; which means it uses the British Pound (£) as currency, and ‘miles’ for driving distance and speed. Republic of Ireland on the other hand is a sovereign state and is part of the European Union (EU), thus it uses the Euro as currency and ‘kilometres’ on the road. We believe these are the most basic information one needs to know prior to a fantastic Irish self-drive adventure!
We decided on Ireland as our destination only a month before our flight to Heathrow and did not have much time for research. We’ve had cousins and friends living in Ireland and they’ve been great at recommending the musts, especially when it comes to food. We landed in Dublin and decided to drive counterclockwise around the island in 9 days. We did not drive a full circle around the entire island since that would make us feel rushed. Our Irish adventure ended in Cork. Total driving distance on this trip: 1,415 kilometres. If you are planning to have a selfdrive vacation like us, we would recommend staying for at least 14 days because Ireland is simply breathtakingly beautiful! It is a land of rugged beauty, very much like Scotland, Iceland and even Taiwan. Is Ireland for you? If you love nature and a very slow-paced holiday, then it is a definite yes. Will we come back to Ireland? It is an easy yes! This is definitely a childrenfriendly destination, and suitable for travellers who enjoy walking. The air is crisp, the food is fresh, and the people are friendly. Getting There and Around » Malaysians do not require visa to enter both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. » You can either fly or take the ferry to Ireland. » Renting a car is probably the best way to explore Ireland, because you get to move at your own pace and head to wherever you like. The Malaysian Driving License is accepted in Ireland, so there is no need for Malaysians to convert it into International Driving Permit. » Driving in Ireland is a breeze for Malaysians, since it also has righthand drive. Do be cautious of the
speed limit though. We passed through many small towns, which meant that we needed to drive really slow. » There are no immigration checkpoints when crossing the borders.
Places We Visited Though there were many places we visited during the trip, we could only highlight the ones we consider most unique and special. In Republic of Ireland
Overview & Tips » Ireland is a tourist-friendly country and the infrastructure at the places of interest are well developed to accommodate huge crowds. » Make sure you wear good quality walking shoes. It is not uncommon to walk far from the parking lot just to get to the entrance of an attraction. Also, there are many forests and parks with breathtaking views that you can hike. We walked and hiked so much during this trip we managed to lose weight when we return! » Forget the umbrella. Bring a good windbreaker or a raincoat instead! Like Iceland, Ireland is blessed with really strong winds. Umbrellas are pretty much useless here. » We went during Easter break, which meant spring had just begun, and it was raining a great deal during our visit. It is advisable that you check the weather forecast before booking your flights. » Do not miss the chance to eat fresh produce and dairies when you’re here. While fish and chips are aplenty, do ask first if the batter used are free of alcohol (beer batter are popular). Halal restaurants are easy to find as well in the big cities. If you’re a big dessert fan, you must eat the Irish Apple Tart and be sure to eat as much local ice cream as you can! » Accommodation in Ireland is expensive than any other countries we have been to. It honestly took us by surprise. Hostels more or less cost the same as hotels, so we decided to mostly stay at the hotels during the trip.
» Dublin The easiest way to discover Dublin is by boarding the Hop On Hop Off busses, which was exactly what we did. With commentaries infused with Irish humour, we get to learn a lot about the city in an interesting manner. Must stops include the famous Trinity College and its library; the Book of Kells, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle (Dubh Linn Garden & Garda Síochána Memorial Garden and Chester Beatty Library), and Oscar Wilde House. » Galway Discover the city on foot and absorb the festive atmosphere! Galway is the city of tribes and Ireland’s cultural capital with fine seafood eateries, and also home to traditional Irish music venues. There are some Spanish influences in this town, which makes Galway unique. » Cliffs Of Moher Enjoy a fantastic view of sea cliffs that spans for about 14 kilometres. Cliffs of Moher is home to thousands of wildlife and is one of the most visited attractions in Ireland. It is best to visit cliffs in the morning. » Dingle A charming Gaelic speaking fishing village where you can shop at traditional arts and crafts stores and lunch at colourful pubs with local musicians playing mystic tunes. Dingle’s most famous resident is Fungie the Dolphin, and there are a number of boat tours available looking for Fungie. Some even offer money back guarantee.
Âť Ross Castle Ross Castle sits on the edge of Killarneyâ€™s lower lake and was built in the 15th century. The castle was bustling with activities when we were there, ducks and swans occupied the lake, and there were horse carriages all waiting for visitors. Tours of the castle and boat rides are also available.
MUST SEE : Republic of Ireland Âť Ring Of Kerry Ring of Kerry is voted top ten most scenic drives in the world. It is 180 kilometres long, which is approximately 3.5 hours of non-stop drive to complete the ring. Drive clockwise (starting at Killarney town, then proceed to Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and culminate at Killorglin). The journey combines emerald pastures and villages with jaw-dropping views of cliffs, mountains and ancient pagan forts. Pull into villages and take side roads across this route. There are also exceptionally picturesque farms and old farm houses along the route. Stop in Cahersiveen and enjoy the view across the bridge and the marina.
» Killarney National Park This is the first national park in Ireland. Sprawling over 10,236 hectares, it is an idyllic place to explore and be enchanted by nature. It is home to Ireland’s largest area of ancient oak woods, with panoramic views of its highest mountains and the country’s only wild herd of native red deer. We recommend a stay of at least three nights in Killarney to fully enjoy the park. It was such a pity that we only made a quick stop here, but we managed to spot a group of wild deer as we left the area after a short hike in the forest.
In Northern Ireland BELFAST » Titanic Belfast (Museum) Located on the original construction site upon which the Titanic was built, the museum offers countless exhibitions that speak eloquently of the ship’s heritage and tragic voyage. Do not forget to take a photo of this iconic museum. » The Peace Walls The walls, established as a temporary measure back in 1969, were a very simple solution to the problem of keeping Republicans and Loyalists apart. It is adorned with murals sending messages of peace. » The Big Fish Located on Donegall Quay, this ceramic mosaic sculpture tells the history of Belfast in a unique form.
» Belfast Castle Set on the slopes of Cavehill Country Park at 120 metres above sea level means we can enjoy unobstructed views of the city of Belfast from here. » Glenariff Forest Park Gorgeous nature reserve in heart of the glens, with three spectacular waterfalls and a choice of peaceful riverside walks. » Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a famous rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede, spanning 20 metres long and 30 metres high above the rocks below. Sadly, we did not make it to the bridge as it was raining furiously, hence decided not to be too adventurous! » Ballintoy Harbour Not too far from Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a small fishing harbour made famous when Game of Thrones decided to use the area as a filming location.
MUST SEE : Northern Ireland » Giant’s Causeway This is perhaps Ireland’s most unique natural attraction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, you do not want to miss witnessing the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. If you only had time for one attraction to visit in Ireland, this should be it!
Famous movies filmed in Ireland : » Game of Thrones : The Dark Hedges in Antrim : Ballintoy Harbour in Antrim : Mussenden Temple in Antrim : Cushendun Caves in Antrim : Portstewart Strand in Londonderry : Binevenagh - Limavady in Londonderry : Downhill Beach in Londonderry : Castle Ward in Down : Quoile River in Down : Tollymore Forest Park in Down : Inch Abbey in Down : Pollnagollum Cave, Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh » Braveheart : Curragh in Kildare, : Trim Castle and Bective Abbey in County Meath » Star Wars The Force Awakens : Skellig Michael in Kerry » Saving Private Ryan : Ballinesker Beach in Wexford » Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince : Cliffs of Moher in Clare : Lemon Rock in Kerry » Lessie : Magillycuddy Reeks in Kerry : Isle of Man » The Italian Job : Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin
Must Eat When in Ireland: » The Seafood Café by Niall Sabongi, Dublin : Oysters & Smashed Potatoes » McDonagh’s Seafood House, Galway : Oysters, Muscles & Apple Tarts » Butlers Chocolate Café, Dublin : Chocolates » Bewley’s Oriental Café, Dublin : Hot Chocolate » Rick’s Burger, Dublin (Halal) : Double Cheese Burger » Iskander’s Kebab Shop, Dublin : Doner Kebab » Umi Falafel, Dublin (Vegan) : Falafel & Sweet Potato Fries » Promenade Café, Ballycastle : Fish & Chips » Mauds Ice Cream Parlour, Ballycastle : Irish Atlantic Sea Salted Caramel Ice Cream » Murphy’s Irish ice cream : Strawberry & Dingle Sea Salt Ice Cream
Gaya Dine & Café
W h e r e Wo r l d C l a s s Gastronomy Meets Hollywood Bon Vivant in South East Asia Te x t & I m a g e s b y S H A H I DA S A KERI , N O B U KL
If there’s one thing that I know about the actor par excellence Robert De Niro, it is the fact that the man has exceptionally good taste. Whenever he sees a gem, he grabs it. And the gem in this story is Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese-trained sushi chef who have worked in Japan, Peru, Argentina and the United States, namely California and New York. So, when I heard that he waited almost four years for Nobu to finally say yes in opening a restaurant with him, we all knew something big was in store, so special that the Hollywood doyen of The Godfather II and The Intern fame, among others, didn’t mind waiting. But it’s a mistake to think that Nobu-san had it easy from the start; with back-to-back tragedies to the point that he even considered taking his own life, Nobu-san’s path to success is nothing short of inspiring, which the public can read in his autobiography entitled ‘Nobu: A Memoir’. Today, the number of his eponymous restaurants set up in partnership with Robert De Niro together with several other like-minded investors has now grown to 38 and spread across five continents. Recently on one clear evening, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to dine at Nobu Kuala Lumpur, located on the 56th floor of Petronas Tower 3, which is Nobu’s first outpost in South East Asia. The dimly-lit restaurant looks gorgeous, partly due to the 360-degree metropolitan view of the cityscape, as well as being cladded with welcoming natural materials. A sushi bar greets diners at the entrance. As they step further in, diners will realise that they are entering the dining area that is amalgamated with a central wooden bar that serves various refreshing beverages and personally-scaled lounge that overlooks the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. My companions and I were greeted by Alexander
Tito (Alex), Nobu Kuala Lumpur’s Assistant Restaurant Manager, whom if I remember correctly previously served Nobu Dubai for a few years; being the charming host as he is, he swiftly whisked us to our seats and enlightened us on the innovative culinary ride that we were about to embark. The first dish that arrived were two plates of tuna and lobster tacos (MYR18 and MYR20 per pice respectively), a clever tribute to Nobu’s Peruvian influence comprising tacos stuffed with fresh seafood topped with exhilarating jolt of spices. The dish was delicious, and I would gladly order it again. The next dish – baby tiger shrimp tempura in creamy spicy (MYR72) – proved to be an equally gratifying appetiser. However, my personal favourite from the menu is what came next: yellowtail with jalapeno dressing (RM78), which is fresh, deliciously on point and full of contrasting strands of flavours derived from jalapeno and coriander. Mind you, I’m not the person who is fond of sashimi, but after what I had that night, I think the dish has jumped straight into my list of top five. This is indeed a star dish that is bound to please sashimi-aficionados. Quietly, I sneaked one more piece into my mouth without my companions looking…
Imaya, one of my dining companion, loved the melt-inthe-mouth new-style salmon sashimi (MYR80) that comes with Southeast Asian tension of saltiness from the yuzu soy sauce with enough heat from ginger and spring onion creeping into the slightly seared fish – Alex suggested that this would be an ideal dish for those who cannot tolerate eating raw fishes, thus I have earmarked it as one of the dishes that I must try when I visit Nobu Kuala Lumpur again. For those who prefer dishes other than sashimi, beef toban yaki (MYR120), sushi unagi with avocado (MYR40) and the house special sushi (MYR50) are excellent options. On top of these, I also savoured the dragon fruit salad ceviche (MYR80), which brought back memories to the dish I had in Fiji called kokoda. Tasting almost similar in a way, the salad features slices of cured fresh raw fish seasoned with citrusy juices and creamy coconut milk, served within dragon fruit rind. For food that is more substantial, the pan seared arctic char with wasabi palm sugar (MYR130) – a dish that melds the succulent flavour of the sea with delightful hint of wasabi-laced sweetness – is a definite wise choice. Another must-try is the sweet black cod with miso (MYR150), which is uniformly soft and hits the right spot. My companions and I also imbibed a selection of reinvigorating mocktails in between meals, with Pepino (MYR28) being my absolute favourite, concocted from fresh cucumber juice, lychee juice and lemon, so refreshing that I finished it all at an astonishing pace – and I didn’t regret it. We ended the evening with yoghurt sub zero (MYR55), a yoghurt ice cream topped with fresh berries drizzled in blueberry sauce, together with the showstopper chocolate sphere (MYR60) that looks like a pretty orb on a plate when it arrived but then dramatically collapses after Alex poured piping hot and thick melted chocolate over it. Besides the exceptional menu that I’ve mentioned, Nobu Kuala Lumpur’s level of service also deserves an applause – the employees are remarkably attentive and ensure that each course swiftly and smoothly flows in and out of the table. There was once when my chopstick fell on the floor, a new pair was brought to me as a replacement almost immediately. The staff seems to know the menu by heart, patiently explaining to every diner with grace and poise, further adding to the credibility of the establishment. In conclusion, Nobu Kuala Lumpur undoubtedly offers diners from this side of the world the opportunity to relish Nobu Matsuhisa’s culinary ingenuity and Robert De Niro’s epicurean sensibilities, both of international repute that place Kuala Lumpur on many international gourmands’ map, turning it into one of the probable places in the city where travellers’ should dine before they die… www.noburestaurants.com/kuala-lumpur
PERAK World of Wonders
Gaya Travel Magazine’s Top Picks! Compiled by SHAHIDA SAKERI
Perak is full of outstanding character that it came to no surprise when Lonely Planet named the state as one of the top places to visit in 2017. This Northern Malaysia state prides itself in having the right mix of offerings comprising natural wonders, gastronomic offerings, heritage legacies and family-friendly attractions that meet various travellers’ expectations. The following are Gaya Travel Magazine’s list of favourite spots in this Silver State that we recommend to travellers.
NATURE & ECO TOURISM ATTRACTIONS Saloma Vineyard & Nursery, Sitiawan www.salomavineyard.com Saloma Vineyard & Nursery proves that grapes can be cultivated and harvested even in Malaysiaâ€™s tropical climate. Here, travellers can take part in plucking grapes with their own hands and learn the technique of how to grow grapes by learning from the vineyard owner. Travellers can also buy grape saplings here to grow the plant at home. Sahabat Hutan Bakau Lekir (Friends of Lekir Mangrove Forest), Sitiawan www.friendsofmangrove.org.my Perak has the biggest mangrove area in peninsular Malaysia and here at Sahabat Hutan Bakau Lekir, travellers can learn about the significance of mangroves to
the local economy and ecosystem, for example their role as seaward barriers against coastal erosion, helping to stabilise the coastline. Lekir Agriculture Station, Sitiawan T: +6 05 691 9189 If Perlis is popular for its mango called Harumanis, Perak takes pride in its own mango called Chokonan that is cultivated in Sitiawan. Lekir Agriculture Station has 80 acres of Chokonan mango trees, each needs to grow for at least two years and a half before starting to produce mangoes. Besides Chokonan mangoes, Lekir Agriculture Station also plants rock melons, coconuts and vegetables, among others. This place is suitable for those who want to experience plucking fruits and vegetables directly from the tree with their bare hands.
From Top: Matang Mangrove Forest is said to have at least 41 species of mangroves; the limestone area of Gunung Lang was explored way back in 1880 by a Malay tin miner.
Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Kuala Sepetang www.kualasepetang.com Widely regarded as one of the best managed mangrove forest ecosystems in the world, this forest reserve is said to have at least 41 species of mangroves and 19 species of mammals such as long-tail macaques and Malayan pangolins. It is also a popular spot for bird-watching among locals and international bird enthusiasts, especially during the migration season between August and April. Moreover, there is a cruise service that takes travellers cruising along the Reba River – on lucky days, pink river dolphins could also be spotted here! These dolphins (Sousa Chinensis) are the South Asian humpback river dolphins. Refarm, Kampar www.refarm.com.my Refarm helps travellers to unwind from the stressful urban lifestyle by letting you experience a farmer’s lifestyle while feeding horses, ostriches, peacocks and
more. Travellers will also get the chance to plant organic vegetables, fruits and mushrooms. Refarm is surrounded by hills and forests and the best thing about this place is the waterfall inside the forest, which is connected to the swimming pool. Entrance fee: MYR10 per adult and MYR5 per child. Gunung Lang Recreational Park, Ipoh www.ipoh-city.com/attraction/Gunung_ Lang_Recreational_Park With the glorious limestone hills of Gunung Lang and Gunung Bilike as the backdrop, this beautiful recreational park is ideal place for travellers to find solitude – it is quiet and pleasing to the eyes with colourful frangipani and bougainvillea trees adorning the entire garden. There is also a mini zoo, a twokilometre walkway, children’s playground, a campsite and a 14.16-hectare lake that separates the park and parking lots. To reach the park, visitors are required to board a boat from the jetty near the parking space that costs RM3 per person for a return transfer.
Enchanting Royal Belum Park, Gerik GPS: 5.793381, 101.511282 Being the biggest Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia, Royal Belum State Park is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world – even older than the famous Amazon – that promises endless delights for nature lovers. A short hike in the rainforest brings travellers to the breathtaking Sungai Rouk Waterfall that is home to thousands of freshwater fishes. On lucky days, they can also spot Rafflesia of various species including Kerri, Azlanii and Cantleyi. Besides flora and fauna, some parts of Royal Belum Park have been reserved for the indigenous tribe, called the Jahai, such as Kampung Aman Damai, touted as a great example of living aboriginal heritage. Reminder: To discover Royal Belum or the Upper Belum area, travellers require permit from the Perak State Parks Corporation.
Clockwise from Top: The 130-million-year-old Belum-Temengor rainforest; the sweet Chokonan mangoes also known as â€˜honey mangoâ€™; a bunch of luscious grapes at Saloma Vineyard & Nursery.
Clockwise from Top Left: Crab noodles at Kampung Dew; a serving of traditional Malay dishes at Nasi Bamboo; silky Tau Fu Fa at Funny Mountain; savoury Satay Endut at Kam Wan Restaurant; Big Bowl Ramen.
FOOD OFFERINGS Nipah Deli Steamboat & Noodle House, Pangkor Facebook Page: Nipah Deli You have to admit that the best way to enjoy seafood is by getting down and dirty with your hands and eat as you please! Luckily, Nipah Deli Steamboat & Noodle House allows such practice by serving food on the plates without any accompanying utensils. Plus, their seafood selection is to die for! Tong Sui Kai (Dessert Street), Ipoh GPS: 4.595802, 101.087251 One dessert that travellers must try is the mixed fruit shaved ice cream comprising a mix of sliced watermelon, kiwi, mango and honeydew, topped with a big scoop of ice-cream on shaved ice with rose syrup, salted peanuts and milk – the right antidote for balmy weather. Funny Mountain, Ipoh GPS: 4.594841, 101.084434 Funny Mountain is perfect for travellers on the go because there are no tables and chairs provided – customers can choose either to eat while standing or just pack the silky-smooth and refreshing Tau Fu Fa (tofu) and go. Each bowl of Tau Fu Fa costs RM1. Kam Wan Restaurant (Gourmet Square), Ipoh GPS: 4.611087, 101.109866 Kam Wan restaurant is one of the oldest food courts in Ipoh, featuring a long stretch of stalls comprising famous hawker delights, including Satay Endut, which are skewers of meat covered in sweet marinade then grilled and fanned over charcoal fire. Big Bowl Ramen, Ipoh Facebook Page: Big Bowl Ramen Big Bowl Ramen is a small café located at the quaint Ipoh Old Town that goes
big on serving, literally. There are four delicious flavours of ramen available here: curry; Japanese miso; Signature Assam Laksa; and Japanese udon, all served in ultra-huge ceramic Chinese bowls enough to nourish two to six persons per serving. The prices range from RM35.90 to RM75.90 each. Goreng-goreng Café & Barber, Ipoh Facebook Page: Goreng-goreng Café This is a full-fledged cafe that serves delightful Malay and Western fare such as fish head curry, fried flat noodle with seafood, fried rice with tenderloin beef and pastas, with the addition of a barber shop right next to it. Also, Goreng-goreng Café provides live band performances on weekend nights to keep guests entertained. Miker Food, Ipoh Facebook Page: Miker Food A popular hangout spot, Miker Food boasts a wide range of menu from handmade stone oven pizza, otak-otak (grilled fish cake) to gourmet burgers and Malaysian delights such as fried rice with spicy beef lung, and sweet and sour barramundi. Besides, Thai food lovers should taste the establishment’s signature Tom Yam Nyor, which uses coconut water in its cooking and served inside an actual coconut! Kampung Dew Jetty, Taiping GPS: 4.909188, 100.665052 Fireflies are not the only thing that is stealing the spotlight in Kampung Dew; its Crab Mee is said to be so delicious that each person would eat more than one bowl. The sweetness of the crab blends beautifully into the mild spicy gravy – a must try for all foodies! Nasi Bamboo Sungai Klah, Sungkai Facebook Page: Nasi Bamboo Sg. Klah Offering almost 50 different types of dishes on weekdays and additional 50 on weekends, Nasi Bamboo Sungai
Klah will satisfy one’s craving for authentic traditional Malay cuisine. Among the popular dishes here are of course bamboo rice (steamed rice wrapped in kalatia leaf and bamboo), free-range chicken dishes including ayam kampung bunian that is inspired from an age-old Indonesian recipe and daging gulai kawah batang pisang (beef and banana stem curry cooked in large wok). Mee Udang Mak Jah, Kuala Sepetang GPS: 4.838866, 100.633882 It is said that the prawns from the waters of Kuala Sepetang are fresher and firmer, and do not exude fishy smell when cooked in broth. Mak Jah’s mee udang (prawn noodle) stall has been a hit among locals and travellers alike since 2009, due to her generous portions and reasonable prices. Each bowl of mee udang costs around RM9 to RM15 depending on the size. FMS Station, Taiping Facebook Page: Station FMS – Selera Taiping Operating as a food court serving an array of Malaysian and Western delicacies, FMS Station often becomes a quick stop for those visiting the nearby Taiping Lake to fuel their empty stomachs. Popular snacks include the cheesy banana fritters, the chocolate fondue and beef nachos. Murtabak Pak Mat (Haji Mohamad & Keluarga), Kuala Kangsar T: +6 014 256 7779 Looking for the best murtabak (spicy folded omelette pancake) in town? Then look no further than Murtabak Pak Mat, a crowd favourite especially during Ramadan (Muslim fasting month). The stall, located at the Arena Square, serves crispy and juicy chicken and beef murtabak containing generous amounts of minced meat and vegetables enveloped by layers after layers of omelette.
CULTURE & HERITAGE ATTRACTIONS Yasmin at Kong Heng Museum, Ipoh www.facebook.com/yasminatkongheng Honouring one of Malaysia’s much-admired luminaries, Yasmin Ahmad, this museum aims at becoming “a space to showcase upcoming creative talents – be it in film-making, design, advertising, performing arts and more.” The museum opens only on weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Taiping Heritage Trail, Taiping Contact Person: Mr. Zul (Tour Guide) - +6016 451 4858 Taiping Heritage Trail is a designated journey that brings travellers to learn more about the state’s history, culture, architecture, flora and fauna by visiting 39 historical sites and buildings including Old Market, Taiping Prison and Perak Museum. Travellers can test their fitness level and get intimately connected with Taiping’s historical landmarks by walking through the suggested trails that takes around two to three hours to finish. Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5 (TT5 Tin Dredge), Kinta Facebook Page: Tanjung Tualang Tin Dredge No. 5 – TT5 048
The TT5 Tin Dredge is an industrial heritage that serves as a reminder of the glorious tin-mining days in Kinta Valley back in the late 19th century. Looking like a floating factory, TT5 today has been rehabilitated as Perak’s latest tourism attraction where visitors can join the guided tour to learn about the workings and features of the dredge. For now, TT5 is open for daily tours from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Entrance fees are at MYR15 per adult and MYR8 per child. Ubudiah Royal Mosque, Kuala Kangsar www.mpkkpk.gov.my Once served as the State Mosque before the completion of Masjid Sultan Idris Shah II, Ubudiah Royal Mosque, with its Indo-Saracenic architecture, is one of the country’s most beautiful mosques. It was designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, a government architect who also designed the beautiful Ipoh railway station and the landmark Kuala Lumpur railway station. The mosque was part of Sultan Idris Murshidul Adzam Shah I’s expression of gratitude to The Almighty after His Royal Highness recovered from an illness. Royal Museum of Perak, Kuala Kangsar muzium.perak.gov.my Also aptly known as Istana Kenangan, the palace had been the official residence of the royal family between 1931 and 1933. It was built in 1926 by the Malay carpenter Enci Sepian
for Sultan Iskandar Shah. However, after Istana Iskandariah was completed, the royal family moved to the new palace and Istana Kenangan was then used to host royal occasions and palace guests. Today, the lovingly quaint palace has been turned into the Royal Museum of Perak, which opens daily except Friday, from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (the museum closes at 12:45 p.m. on Thursdays). Galeri Sultan Azlan Shah, Kuala Kangsar www.gsas.perak.gov.my This gallery showcases enthralling anecdotes of the late Sultan Azlan Shah (1928-2014), from his personal background to his vast personal collections, honorary awards, jewellery and medals. Travellers who arrive in a large group can request for a guided tour, which comes highly recommended so that travellers will be able to appreciate the exhibits even more. Ihsaniah Iskandariah Mosque, Padang Rengas GPS: 4.772383, 100.893690 The mosque is considered unique due to its exquisite plaited kelarai (woven strip bamboo) and carvings on the building’s façade, which was crafted by Chinese artisans and now becomes a popular Instagram-worthy attraction.
Clockwise from Top: The Royal Museum of Perak used to be known as Kenangan Palace; the TT5 was built in England in 1938 by F.W. Payne & Son; the design of the Royal Ubudiah Mosque has a mix of Malay and Indian elements; the Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery was reconstructed from the old Istana Ulu castle.
Tour 3 or Wet Tour 4, which bring them to the east end of the cave through an underground river. Gua Kandu, Gopeng nomadadventure.com Located about half an hour from Gua Tempurung, Gua Kandu is a cave system in Gopeng that was once used by the Japanese during the Second World War before it was taken over by Communist guerrillas to be used as their secret base during the Emergency. The trails here are considered slightly difficult compared to Gua Tempurung because visitors are required to hike through a steep climb to get to the cave entrance. At the end of the trail, they get to zip line themselves out of the cave to a platform on the hillside below, then continue scaling down via ferrata. It takes approximately two hours for visitors to complete the course. Night Safari at Taiping Zoo, Taiping www.zootaiping.gov.my
FAMILY-FRIENDLY ATTRACTIONS Funtasy House Trick Art, Ipoh www.funtasyhouse.com Housed within a beautifully restored heritage shophouse at the Old Town area, Funtasy House Trick Art invites travellers to get creative and channel their inner supermodel. Nine local artists came up with over 20 immersive 3D mural paintings that represent the theme of fun and fantasy, including an upside-down kitchen and hot air balloon ride. Entrance fee: MYR15 (Adults with MyKad), MYR19 (Adults without MyKad) and MYR10 (Children, senior citizens and students). Gua Tempurung, Gopeng www.gtoc.asia Considered as one of the largest limestone caves in Peninsula Malaysia, the communist guerrillas used the cave as their hideout during the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960). But today, it is developed into a popular tourism attraction with strict safety measures in place. The first stage of the cave tour allows travellers to explore its beauty on concrete and stable platforms. The more adventurous travellers should join the Wet
Located on a 36-acre land at the heart of Taiping Lake Garden, Taiping Zoo is an ex situ conservation site that employs open-air enclosures that mimic the habitats of over 180 species of animals including tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, orang utans and more. At night, nocturnal animals, which are usually asleep during the day, become active and travellers can spot them easily. The zoo also successfully breeds and reintroduce several endangered species back into the wild. Entrance fee: MYR21.20 per adult and MYR10.60 per child. Nomad Adventure, Gopeng www.nomadadventure.com This ISO- certified outdoor adventure company offers whitewater-rafting trips, kayaking, caving, rock climbing, high ropes course, waterfall abseiling and adventure racing, among others. This company also provides accommodation at Earth Camp, the place where travellers can learn more about the environment and local culture, giving travellers the opportunity to be around nature longer. Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS), Ipoh www.mapsperak.com The theme park features over 40 attractions in six-themed zones, where children and adults alike can come and spark their imagination and meet their favourite animated characters such as Boboiboy and the Smurfs. For those in need of a shot of adrenaline rush, there are also thrilling rides such as the Space X-plorers, the Hyperspin and the Asteroid Attack. Motorsport enthusiasts, moreover, should not skip South-East Asiaâ€™s first thrilling car and bike live stunt show at the Live Action Zone, where they can listen to the engines roar and witness two stunt teams battling each other.
Fragrant and delicious Fish Head Curry at Sunway Putra KL.
Labuan, the pearl of
Borneo Te x t b y ED J U NA I D I Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI
A lot has changed since my last trip to Labuan back in 2011 (Issue No 6.4: https://www.gayatravel.com.my/labuan/). Not so long ago, this federal territory was known as an important offshore financial centre offering international financial services while serving as a base for giant offshore oil and gas (O&G) companies. Back then, there were more business people rather than tourists. Seven years later, I am back here again and I love seeing how this island has morphed into a more laidback, relaxing and fun-filled destination. It is now more of a tropical paradise where people converge to get that sun-kissed tan by the pristine beach and in the sea while experiencing year-long summer fling. Labuan is called â€œThe Pearl of Borneoâ€?, and its allure now extends beyond its strategic duty-free status and (O&G) businesses. My second visit to Labuan gave me an entirely different experience from the first, which I think is for the better.
Clockwise from top: Labuan Chimney is still a mystery as there is no evidence to suggest it was used as a chimney; The iconic Patau-Patau Water Village, inhabited by the Kedayan-Bruneian families, is a unique feature to Labuan as a destination; Surrender Point symbolises the fallen soldiers and civilians during World War II.
Labuan Museum & Labuan Square (GPS: 5.277134, 115.245336) The two-storey Labuan Museum is housed in a pre-war colonial building that presents enriching information regarding what was the island like before the arrival of the British. It is a one-stop centre for travellers to access any information about Labuan and written historical moments that make Labuan as one of Malaysia’s Federal Territories. Outside the museum is the historic Labuan Square, where the four Flame of the Forest trees stand tall on all four corners of the square, each planted by the Chinese, Malay, Indian and European communities respectively in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. World War II Memorial (GPS: 5.287301, 115.261967)
This memorial was built and currently maintained by Commonwealth War Graves Commission to serve as a memorial for the 3,908 war heroes, soldiers from Australia and Britain, Punjab Signal Corp, New Zealand and Northern Borneo, who either died during battle or in captivity during World War II. It is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Labuan as it boasts a beautiful wide green lawn with inscribed headstones of the fallen heroes.
Patau-Patau Water Village (GPS: 5.282662, 115.234581)
Visiting a water village in Labuan is a must because this feature makes the destination unique. The houses in Patau-Patau Water Village, which are inhabited by the Kedayan-Bruneian families, are built between five and six metres above water level, all connected to each other using wooden boardwalk. Though the village looks traditional from the outside, its infrastructure is organised and well developed, complete with water and power supply, internet connection and proper sewage system, including important public facilities like clinics, schools and place of worship. Though the Kedayan-Bruneian community members still maintain their traditional lifestyle and customs, they also embrace modern life and globalisation.
Peace Park & Surrender Point (GPS: 5.332827, 115.192845)
Located close to Kampung Layang-Layangan, the Peace Monument Park was set up and taken care by the Japanese government to remember the fallen soldiers and civilians during World War II. Next to it, the Surrender Point is the place where the Japanese ceded their control of Labuan to the Australians and also the place where the remaining Japanese soldiers committed Hara-kiri, a suicide act as a way to maintain their dignity after losing the war. Labuan Heritage Trails @ Labuan Chimney (GPS: 5.381016, 115.248914) The real reason for this 106-foot red brick stack with typical British architecture being erected is still a mystery as there is no trace of smoke or burn to suggest that it was used as a chimney. Nevertheless, it still earns its place as one of Labuan’s main landmarks, especially after winning the International Green Apple Awards for Environmental Best Practice and Sustainable Development in 2013 under the category of historic building architecture. Visiting this chimney to check out its fascinating built and accompanying museum that stores information regarding history of coal mining in Tanjung Kubong from 1847 until 1911 is highly recommended. The Chimney is also the gateway to access Labuan Heritage Trail, an easy hike that ends at the tip of Tanjung Kubong, where travellers can enjoy the great panoramic view of South China Sea. Along the trail, travellers may find remnants of historical artefacts and structures such as ‘Gedung Ubat’ (Ammunition Store), a small and semi-rounded brick building that is believed to have stored Japanese explosives and artillery bullets during World War II. The trail takes about an hour for a return trip from The Chimney. When in Labuan, also see: An-Nur Mosque, Labuan Halal Hub, United Nation (UN) Beach Monument.
DO Homestay Kampung Layang-Layangan
(GPS: 5.338784, 115.197166) The villagers of Kampung Layang-Layangan are very heartwarming and friendly. This award-winning village offers travellers the valuable opportunity to experience hands-on local activities such as traditional cake-making and tasting kuih sapit, kuih jala and roti jala and enjoy a refreshing piasau (coconut drink) while being entertained by rich cultural performances in the form of silat, kompang and joget, including the never-ending sharing of the village’s history. Kampung Layang-Layangan Homestay has won several recognitions and awards including the coveted title as the Most Visionary Village back in 2008, including the Cleanest Village Homestay in Malaysia. From this village, travellers can check out the beach that locals call Layang-Layangan where travellers can hire a boat and head to Snake Island, located a little less than ten minutes’ boat ride from the beach. The island is basically a big rock emerged from the sea and offers fun activities such as snorkelling and cliff-jumping! It is also a great spot for those who love fishing.
Satay Tuna Factory (GPS: 5.265575, 115.235930)
Fisheries Product Transformation Centre in Labuan is the pioneer of Tuna Satay that is produced commercially for the first time in Malaysia; and probably even in Asia. It began in May 2017, and the ready-to-cook Tuna Satay has been distributed to selected malls and hotels throughout Malaysia. It tastes better than chicken or beef satay, less in cholesterol and high in protein. Fisheries Glory is responsible marketing this product internationally. Don’t like the look of tuna on skewers? Then travellers may also opt for tuna steaks, tuna balls and tuna burgers. Address: Jabatan Perikanan Negeri Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan, Km 4, Jalan Patau-Patau, Peti Surat 81411, 87024 Wilayah Persekutuan Labuan Tel: +6087415881 Fax: +6087412885
Rusukan Besar Island (GPS: 5.201460, 115.140188)
Considered as still pristine, this uninhabited island is a perfect getaway from the urban bustle. A snorkelling trip to this island costs MYR180 per person. The underwater scenery is beautifully filled with corals and micro planktons. There are various tiny fishes swimming around the corals near the beach. Once in a while, snorkellers will be pleasantly surprised by the presence of black tip sharks and turtles. For those who would like to stay overnight on the island, there are five units of A-shaped huts available for rent. A turtle conservation centre has been erected too especially after the authorities discovered that turtles land on Rusukan Besar, including the neighbouring Rusukan Kecil and Kuraman islands, to lay eggs. Other activities that can be done on the island are kayaking, barbecuing, picnicking and sunbathing.
Riding on parahu larai – a newly-designed wooden outrigger canoes with sail – is a new addition to Labuan and totally recommended. The idea came from the traditional way the Kedayan-Bruneian people has been sailing across the sea. Parahu larai offers another way to enjoy an exhilarating sight-seeing experience in Labuan over water. One trip costs MYR15 per person for a 20-minute journey. Travellers need to put on their wet attire because they might fall into the water when the boat is hit by strong waves. However, fear not, because riding on parahu larai is safe. The two places where travellers can experience riding on parahu larai are Ramsey Point and Papan Island.
Papan Island (GPS: 5.254338, 115.270844)
This small island across Ramsey Point – where Labuan International Sea Sports Complex is located – has always been a favourite weekend getaway for local families and tourists. Since my last visit to this place seven years ago, Papan Island’s facilities has markedly improved and more chalet units have been erected. These days, there are more activities offered here such as parahu larai, banana boat and flying sofa boat. Even the trek to the lighthouse located on higher ground has been upgraded and more paths covered. I recommend spending at least half-a-day here.
Labuan International Golf Club
(GPS: 5.277138, 115.171586) The brand-new Labuan International Golf Club (LIGC) features many new services, including its soon-to-becompleted Malaysia’s first duty-free premium outlet set to be launched in early 2019. It is located amidst mesmerising scenery where the rainforest meets sea coast. Designed by renowned Australian designer Parslow & Winter Golf Course Design, the golf course has the first nine holes surrounded by lush rainforest greenery, while the other nine holes dot along the coastline with sea view. LIGC strives to deliver a memorable golfing experience in Labuan. Address: Jalan Sungai Pagar, 87000 W. P. Labuan Tel: +6087468468 Fax: +6087468467 Email: email@example.com URL: http://www.ligc.com.my
ATV Ride by Smart Ryders ATV at Desa Tunas Hijau
(GPS: 5.289384, 115.172969) All-terrain vehicle (ATV) rides near Sungai Miri Beach is operated by Smart Ryders ATV from Desa Tunas Hijau. Although ATV is synonymous with extreme sports, here it offers three options to travellers: village track, jungle track and beach track. Every track offers different facet of Labuan. The best part of this ride is revving along Sungai Miri Beach while taking in the glorious sunset view. Address: Desa Tunas Hijau, 87000 WP Labuan Tel: +60143580027 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: https://www.instagram.com/smartrydersatv
Clockwise from top left: A tourist learning how to prepare kuih jala traditionally; Salted egg crabs at Nagalang Seafood Restaurant is made of fresh crabs caught by local fishermen; Rusukan Besar Island is pristine, a perfect getaway to escape the urban bustle.
When in Labuan, also do: Duty-free shopping, which is almost everywhere on the island. Other places to do shopping are Labuan Central Market and Muzium Marina Labuan.
and even romantic couples. The restaurant’s butter milk prawn, Nestum prawn, salted egg crabs and mussels in chilli are must-try’s.
Address: Jalan Tanjung Batu, 87000 Labuan. Tel: +6087423888
Mortar Cafe, Lazenda Hotel
(GPS: 5.288499, 115.197113) Enjoy savoury Labuan dishes the way locals love them, which storm the place during lunch hour especially on weekdays, thus avoid coming here between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Try the eatery’s special fish cooked in sour gravy, prawns cooked in yellow coconut milk gravy and local salad with chilli paste. Address: 705, Jalan Bebuloh, 87000 Labuan Tel: +60135400849 Email: email@example.com URL: https://www.facebook.com/Warung Jeliti-336306793086201
Mr Crab Seafood & Steamboat Restaurant
(GPS: 5.287148, 115.212998) This restaurant is located at the confluence of two rivers with lush mangrove backdrop, serving wide array of seafood such as king lobster, tiger prawn, and snow skin red bean roll, among others. We totally recommend the restaurant’s special pumpkin crab and Thai-style steamed abalone. Address: Eco Pelancongan Kinabenua, Jalan Kinabenua, 87000 Labuan. Tel: +60172280288 URL: https://www.facebook.com/Mr-Crab-SeafoodSteamboat-Restaurant-426571124376169
Anjung Ketam, Nagalang Seafood Restaurant
(GPS: 5.315205, 115.254973) This is another good option to savour seafood in Labuan, but it is a little secluded with 360-degree panoramic view of the ocean. The seafood is fresh because it’s directly bought from local fishermen. It can be quite hot in the afternoon but the sea breeze cools the place down and makes dining here worthwhile. Address: Simpang Ikan Todak 24 Kerupang 1, Kampung Nagalang, 87000 Labuan Tel: +60178392870 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: https://www.facebook.com/ kampungnagalangseafoodrestaurant
Mawilla Yatch Club Seafood Restaurant
(GPS: 5.276507, 115.258876) Located within the Yatch Club near Ramsey Point, it offers dining experience on the beach with the panorama of Brunei Bay and Papan Island. It is famous for its delectable selection of seafood accompanied by spectacular sunset view, offering a perfect setting for families, small intimate groups of friends
(GPS: 5.278602, 115.246153) Latest addition to the Labuan food scene is the hip and Instagram-able Mortar Café, the sister brand of Lazenda Hotel, which offers unique all-day dining experience. There is an all-day breakfast on the menu and meals for both lunch and dinner. The ambience is trendy, befitting its tagline “Eat, Chill and Drink”. We recommend that travellers order Prawn Somtam, Charcoal Burger, and Mortar Laksa, including amazing desserts like Durian Cheesecake and Coconut Yoghurt Gelato. Address: Block C & D, Lazenda Centre, Jalan OKK Abdullah, Bandar Labuan, 87007 Labuan Tel: +6087580800 / Fax: F +6087580600 Email: email@example.com URL: https://www.facebook.com/Mortar-CafeLounge-374398149598502/ When in Labuan, also eat: At Ramsey Point, where local street food is abound. 061
STAY Pilly Homestay, Kampung Layang-Layangan
(GPS: 5.339750, 115.197518) Address: No.13-5034, Jalan OKK Daud, Kampung Layang-Layangan, 87000 Labuan. Tel: +60178133566/+6087467566 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: https://www.facebook.com/pillyhomestay/
Palm Beach Resort & Spa (GPS: 5.386312, 115.238696) Address: Jalan Batu Manikar, 87014 Labuan Tel: +6087418700 / Fax: +6087418732 Email: email@example.com URL: http://www.palmbeachresortspa.com/
Tiara Labuan Hotel (GPS: 5.282321, 115.260937) Address: Jalan Tanjung Batu, 87007 Labuan Tel: +6087414300 / Fax: +6087410195 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.tiaralabuan.com/
Lazenda Hotel (GPS: 5.278602, 115.246153)
Address: Block C & D, Lazenda Centre, Jalan OKK Abdullah, Bandar Labuan, 87007 Labuan Tel: +6087580800 / Fax: F +6087580600 Email: email@example.com URL: http://www.lazendahotel.com/
LABUAN SEA Te x t & I m a g e s b y LA B UA N TO U RI S M
Beautiful and untouched, Labuan Marine Park could easily pass as an underwater paradise for scuba divers. It is located at the mouth of Brunei Bay, specifically in the Federal Territory of Labuan – an international Offshore Financial Centre and duty-free port – and is accessible by air and ferries. The park comprises 10 kilometres squared of crystal clear water and three uninhabited islets, namely Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Rusukan Kecil and the largest of the three, Pulau Kuraman. The white sandy beaches on these islands make them a favourite place for day-trip picnic. Camping on one of these islands is also possible, provided that travellers obtain necessary permission. Moreover, there are four shipwrecks with rich marine life in this region that are widely known among divers: two from World War II and two from the 1980’s. These wrecks are consecutively called ‘Cement Wreck’, ‘American Wreck’, ‘Australian Wreck’, and ‘Blue Water Wreck’; the first one is the most suitable for novice divers. To explore the rest, one must be certified in wreck-diving or have deep diving experience logged before diving at the sites.
The American Wreck comes with a tragic history: the ship was once a US Navy Minesweeper, formerly the USS Salute, built in Seattle, Washington, in 1943. It was first put into service in Hawaii in 1944 to escort convoys between Pearl Harbour and several ports in the Far East before eventually used as protector against anti-aircraft vessels and submarines, including minesweeping operations in the Phillippines and several other operations along Brunei Ba. However, in 1945, it struck a mine that blasted it and broke it in half. Nine US sailors lost their lives when it sank. Today, divers get to experience a journey back in time with the sightings of bullet clips, depth chargers, wire bottles and canon artefacts, which are all pretty much left intact on this tangled mass of a shipwreck. In 2007, the members of the Brunei Sub Aqua Diving Club (BSADC) honoured the nine servicemen who perished by placing a plaque listing their names on the skeletal remain of the ship.
Built in the Dutch West Indies in 1890, the ship was originally a cargo and passenger steamer named SS De Klerk. However, the Japanese managed to salvage the ship from the Dutch during the World War II and renamed it Imbari Maru and put it to service as a cargo vessel. It was making its way towards Manila when it was assumed to be bombed by the Australian air force, hence the name. However, it was soon discovered that the ship hit a mine before it sank 23 kilometres southwest of Pulau Rusukan Besar in 1944. 339 people lost their lives including workers and prisoners of war. Some divers believe the wreck to be haunted by the ghosts of these tortured souls. Nevertheless, the wreck offers an atmospheric dive for brave due to the combination of less than 10-metre visibility and rich coral growth, making it a fantastic subject for underwater photography.
This ship was used to transport cement to Brunei for the Sultan’s new palace. But it hit the Semerang Bank when it was on its way to Labuan for repairs and sank. Fortunately, no lives were lost. Out of the four wrecks in Labuan, the Cement Wreck is considered shallowest and easiest to navigate through, making it perfect for beginners of wreck-diving. It sits on the seabed in an upright position rising up to 19 metres, with its top half covered by a colourful garden of soft and hard corals, sponges and ferns. Hence, it is no surprise that the wreck is considered as one of world’s most colourful and photogenic wrecks. Besides, the marine life here is rich, thus, divers can expect to spot plenty of unique marine creatures including barracuda, turtles, lion fish, reef fish and even whale shark on lucky days.
Blue Water Wreck
The Blue Water Wreck or Mabini Padre was a large Philippines fishing trawler that caught fire and sank sideways in 1981, about 34 kilometres from Labuan. It was named after the surrounding clear blue water that engulfed it, free from the inshore murk since it is located furthest away from the coast. The wreck excites divers because the vessel, including its masts, is still completely intact and attracts plenty of marine life such as soft corals, groupers and bat fishes.
Side note: Vernon Bank A recently discovered dive site, Vernon Bank does not have a shipwreck but is still equally mesmerising. It is stated in the old British Admiralty Charts and Publication and located over 70 kilometres off north Labuan. The whole area is described as ‘huge underwater atoll split into different levels with five-metre crater in the middle.’ Divers can expect abundant marine life, including manta rays, porcelain crabs, whip coral goby, bubble goby, stone fish, tuna and scorpion fishes along with sea fans and pygmy seahorses.
Travellers will encounter fresh air, beautiful waterfalls and rainforest scents as they trek along the Kelabit ancestral trail
Tr e k k i n g t h e H e r i t a g e o f
Bario Highlands Te x t & I m a g e s b y ED J U NA I D I
Forty minutes after leaving Miri Airport on MASWings DHC-6 Twin Otter, we approach Kelabit Highlands. Still sleepy from the Kuala Lumpur-to-Miri morning flight earlier, I peek from the aircraft window and witness the great aerial view of Batang Baram (Baram River), Malaysia’s second longest river that originates from Kelabit Highlands and home to many Orang Ulu tribes, including Kayan, Kenyah, Berawan, and the shy and semi-nomadic Penan. Along this fascinating river is the world’s second largest cave passage listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site: Gunung Mulu National Park, and the lesser-known Loagan Bunut National Park. But we are not heading to Mulu. Our intended destination is actually Bario, famous for its rice, pineapple and – as we discover during this trip – the best instant curry noodle in Malaysia. This familiarisation trip to Bario is organised by Volvo Trucks Malaysia in conjunction with the official handing-over event at Bario Asal Lembaa longhouse settlement to mark the completion of Volvo Trucksfunded longhouse fire-fighting system and ecoshelters along the 25-kilometre Bario ancestral jungle trail. Volvo Trucks, one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturers, continues to drive progress for a safer and more sustainable future with a corporate social responsibility contribution via the Volvo Group Seasonal Gift programme to the Kelabit community of Bario in Sarawak. These two gifts from Volvo Trucks are part of The Seasonal Gift programme, Volvo Group’s corporate social responsibility efforts that are carried out globally to help support the host country’s social causes. The objective is to help create prosperity for the communities where Volvo Trucks operates.
Malaysia is one of the countries that were selected, with Bario chosen as the recipient of the Volvo Trucks-funded RM500,000 Season Gift contribution to improve the lives of the Kelabit community. The Bario project commenced in mid-2017 and completed in December 2017. Bario is made up of a vast highland plateau that lies 1,000 metres above sea-level in the north-eastern corner of Sarawak and is home to a number of small indigenous villages. Surrounded by mountains, cultural sites, agricultural landscape and tropical rainforest, Bario is undeniably one of the most beautiful rural locations in Malaysia that deserves conservation and protection. The indigenous community that has been living in Bario for over 4,000 years is called Kelabit, whose members today face challenges like rampant modernisation and deforestation. Over the years, about 65% of the younger population have migrated due to lack of facilities and jobs in Bario. Today, it is estimated that slightly more than 1,000 Kelabit people remain in Bario.
Under the Economic Transformation Programme, the Government aims to establish Bario as the world-class hub for Agrobiodiversity and obtain UNESCO World Heritage site status. The transformation programme focuses on sustainability and preservation of the rainforest and the indigenous community. Kelabit tribes, like others in Borneo, are close-knit. Each Kelabit tribe dwell in a traditional longhouse. These days, the longhouse has been modernised yet still retains its cultural functions and aspects. Many such longhouse have to be rebuilt several times due to disasters, especially fire. Since the longhouse is in a remote location in the highlands and inaccessible for the fire brigade to reach it, Volvo Trucks considers it imperative that the fire-fighting system should be part of the Seasonal Gift Programme. The Kelabit longhouse impressively stands on many strong pillars, raised four metres above ground and walled by rough wooden planks or bamboo that are joined together using rattan seams. The roof of the longhouse is high and made of thick thatch. In my observation, many parts of the longhouse these days have been replaced with zinc, plywood and cement. Traditionally, the stairs were made from chopped logs but nowadays the staircases are made of thick wooden planks or bricks and cement. It is worth noting that the Kelabit longhouse has distinctive characteristics compared to the longhouses belonging to the other indigenous communities of Sarawak. The differences can be seen in the layout of the building, which comprises a shared long hall as the tribe’s main public space called tawa; rooms for each family to stay; and another long hall at the back of the rooms called dalim; a family area; and a kitchen. Dalim is usually smoky because there is a hearth at the back of each room. For Kelabit people, the hearth is very important as the family’s gathering place, thus dominating the layout of the building due to its significance. We stay at a longhouse called Bario Asal Lembaa. This is a very important settlement in Bario as it has been recognised as the oldest longhouse in the
Kelabit-settled area. Although touches of modernisation can be seen on the longhouse, it retains most of its traditional characteristics. Most of the nights in Bario, my fellow media travelling companions and I gather around the hearth to enjoy Bario coffee and local delicacies such as dried buffalo meat strips and delicious fresh fruits like pineapples and mangoes! On the second day of our stay in Bario, we hike up to one of the five eco-shelters along the Kelabit ancestral trail to check out how an eco-shelter sponsored by Volvo Trucks looks like. The eco-shelters are built not only for tourists but also for the Penans and Kelabits who commute along this 25-kilometre ancestral trail that leads deeper into the thick rainforest along hilly terrain to a place called Batu Lawi, a twin-peaked mountain in the Kelabit Highlands. Batu Lawi is sacred to both Penans and Kelabits; these tribes have been commuting on foot along the trail for over two thousand years. The trail and Batu Lawi therefore are steep in legends and myths. The trail, however, is not for beginners. Even skilled and experienced hikers would find it challenging having to hike along hilly terrains, cross rivers, get stuck in muddy pathways and climb steep mountain slopes. Some parts of the trail are merely soft soil and can be unsuspectingly arduous. When the locals say that the 25-kilometre trail is a three-day hike for them, it actually means six to seven days for the rest of us. Before we begin hiking to the eco-shelter, the locals say that it takes four hours to get there, but we end up doing seven hours one way! We started off in high spirits but falter along the way as the trail becomes more and more challenging. It first passes by village houses, farms and paddy fields, but then it gets harder as we enter the forest. We eventually reach eco-shelter number 2 (the closest shelter to the village) after seven exhausting hours. The eco-shelters, although funded by Volvo Trucks, were actually built by the Kelabits and Penans. All building materials were brought in by foot. No
trees were cut down to build the shelters and most of the logs used were bought from outside Bario and carried into the jungle, entirely using manual labour. These shelters are basic. Each of them is erected four metres above ground with basic toilet and basic shower room. Most of them are also equipped with simple rainwater harvesting system – those without the system use water from a nearby source. There are literally zero amenities being placed inside the shelters but enough to protect hikers who stay the night from wild animals. We are told that there is a plan to bring in more amenities to facilitate hikers who need to rest there. If travellers plan to hike the trail and stay the night, bring along a sleeping bag and enough amenities to remain clean and comfortable. Personally, I find the trail challenging. However, if a traveller can plan the hike properly, it would be a great experience to hike into the thick rainforest jungle of the Kelabit Highlands. I totally recommend Mr Julian from Bario Asal Lembaa to guide through the jungle because he is one of the most experienced, knowledgeable and remarkably patient man to get anyone through the challenging ancestral trail. Perhaps, we push ourselves too hard to get to the eco-shelter since we do not have much time and we had to complete the hike in a day. Travellers with more time should overnight at one of the shelters before heading back to Bario village. Bario is not just about hiking along the ancestral trail. Other activities that can be done here are village sightseeing, hiking to the waterfall, freshwater fishing, watching wildlife and nature, mountain-biking, kayaking and boatriding, camping, farming and working in the paddy fields. Please check the activity’s level of difficulty first before going along with them. For event-goers, there are two main events in Bario that make the destination worth visiting: Bario Trail Run (in September 2018) and Bario Food & Cultural Festival called Nukenan Festival (typically in July or August).
Right, top: The plaque mentioning Volvo Trucks Malaysiaâ€™s contribution in developing the eco-shelters Right, bottom: One of the five eco-shelters constructed along the Kelabit ancestral trail funded by Volvo Trucks Malaysia Below, top: The ancestral trail gets harder as it leads into the rainforest Below, bottom: Bario Highlands seen in the background
Tips: There is virtually no ATM machine in Bario. Internet connection and telecommunication is poor. The Internet can be accessed at the community hall and internet centre only. Neither Grab or e-hailing services nor taxis or buses are available. Travellers need to arrange their own transportation. To move around, bicycles can be rented from any of the community service providers. Take note that Waze too does not work in Bario. Travellers should download offline maps via Google Map before flying to Bario. Last but not least: do not go into the jungle alone.
GETTING TO BARIO Unless you prefer driving on a four-wheel drive (4WD) through the rainforest that would typically take 10 to 14 hours to reach Bario, the only other way to get there is to fly on a small Twin Otter plane from Miri, operated by MASWings, Malaysia Airlinesâ€™ rural flight service. A direct flight from Miri to Bario takes about 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the weather, which might be unpredictable in the highlands, causing delays and cancellations. Travellers are advised to prepare for last-minute changes and eventualities. The maximum capacity for an 18-seater Twin Otter plane is 10 kilograms for check-in baggage and 5 kilograms for hand luggage. The additional fee of RM1 per access kilogram will be charged, so please travel light to avoid unnecessary charges. Travellers can fly to Miri from Kuala Lumpur or other domestic destinations in Malaysia using Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia or Firefly. For ground arrangement enquiries, contact Mr Julian at +6 011 2508 1114 or browse @visitbario Instagram page or @bariorealitytourism Facebook page. You can also get in touch with Bario Highlands Guide Council via firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out barioexperience.com too for more information.
K a n s a i Through The Stomach Part II 072
Te x t & I m a g e s b y FA R A H N A D I A H
In this part, Farah Nadiah continues to explore Kansai’s delights, this time covering Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka and Sakai City. For Part I of this story, please refer to Issue 13.1. Day 3: Kyoto, Hyogo & Osaka On the third day of our trip, we attended Yoshihiro’s Kyoto Style Confectionery Class, located 10 minutes’ walk from JR Nijo Station. During that one-hour class, we tried our hands at making wagashi, traditional Japanese confections that are often served with tea, under the guidance of a class instructor. The pastry, red beans and confectionary utensils, spoons and chopsticks were provided. After the demonstration by the instructor, we followed the steps to make two types of sweets. At the end of the session, matcha tea was served with other sweets for us to enjoy. Ozeki Brewery at Nishinomiya, Hyogo From Osaka, we travelled to Nishinomiya in Hyogo Prefecture to visit the Ozeki brewery. A special tour
was organised to enable us to see for ourselves how sake is manufactured at the brewery. The right combination of rice, water and brewmaster is important in making sake. We followed every brewing process starting from examining the condition of the rice, determining the rate of rice polishing, fermenting and monitoring the temperature. After the sake-making tour, we were offered different kinds of sake to smell and guessed the ingredients used to flavour the sake. Like other versatile drink, sake can be paired with various food items to boost its taste. Sake is can be served at room temperature, warm or straight from the refrigerator. At the end of the tour, we made our way to Sekijuan where sake bottles are stocked up. Do not forget to look up for the sake skin care products on sale at Sekijuan, which prove to be efficacious.
Top: Varieties of Ozeki sake that can be bought at Sekijuan, Nishinomiya, Hyogo. Bottom: Favourite snacks in Osaka called okonomiyaki.
Clockwise from Top: Array of fresh seafood sold at Kuromon Ichiba Market; Spoilt for choice of rice dishes at Ginshariya Geko-Tei, Sakai City; Exotic wild puffer fish cuisine at Guenpin Fugu.
Okonomiyaki Kiji Umeda-Ten Back in Osaka the same afternoon, we tried okonomiyaki, a popular snack in the Kansai region alongside takoyaki. From the moment we entered Kiji Umeda-Ten, we were greeted by the inviting smell of the brown sauce filling. Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake from batter made up of wheat flour added with Japanese yams and cabbage. The uneven square shaped pancake will then be half-grilled with the filling of choice by the chef before transferred to the iron girdle on diner’s table. You can also order okonomiyaki topped with soba noodles. Okonomiyaki is so popular in Kansai that travellers need to queue for them before they can get their hands on this snack. Address: 1/2F Shinumeda-Shokudogai, 9-20 Kakudacho, Kita-ku, Osaka-shi Time: 11:30 – 21:30 (Closed on Sundays)
Kuromon Ichiba Market After feting over Japanese food for the last couple of days, it was timely that we visited the Kuromon Ichiba Market of Osaka, where fresh produce is sold. Kuromon Ichiba Market is the ideal place to find arrays of local street food for travellers to sample such as takoyaki, grilled scallop, oden and sashimi. Sushi and sashimi are prepared fresh for immediate consumption. Being the most well-known fresh markets in Osaka to be frequented by foreign travellers, prices here can be steep compared to other local markets. But it would be difficult to resist the temptation of fresh food prepared right under your nose. Travellers may also catch the tuna-cutting demonstration here. Address: 2-4-1, Nipponbashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka-shi
Guenpin Fugu, E-street Osaka For dinner, we were taken to the neon-lit food street in Kitaku to taste the exotic tora-fugu (tiger puffer fish) Guenpin Fugu. The wild tiger puffer is highly sought after in Shimonoseki, Japan. With 93 restaurants nationwide, Guenpin Fugu serves exotic delicacies at an affordable price. Since tiger puffer fish is poisonous, the chef is highly trained and has license to dissect the puffer fish and prepare it as a meal. First, we enjoyed the wild puffer hot-pot course. After devouring the croquettes glazed with fugu sauce and parboiled tiger puffer skin sashimi, I was fascinated to learn how the Japanese hot pot is prepared. A mixture of fugu, prawns, clams, mussels, zucchini in fugu-flavoured clear broth are laid out on paper pot and cooked on diners’ table. It was amazing to see how the food was cooked directly above fire without burning the paper. There are three choices of sauce as condiment, ranging from ponzu (citrus sauce), soy sauce with miso and dip set of sweet spicy soy sauce, garlic salt and sweet spicy miso. The leftover clear broth from the hot pot was then used to prepare an Italian fusion spaghetti dish. A Japanese porridge mixed with egg was then prepared in another paper pot as our final course. The fugu meal was concluded by Guenpin’s special dessert. The five-dish course at Guenpin Fugu costs
between ¥4,500 (MYR162) and ¥9,000 (MYR324). Address: 4-17 Doyamachou Kita-ku, Osaka-shi
Day 4: Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Sakai is one of the 33 cities that make up Osaka Prefecture. It is home to ancient cultural heritage and the place where Chanoyu tea ceremony originated. Starting from the fifth century, the Sakai people had been building ancient tombs in keyhole, round and square shapes. Originally numbered at 100 tombs, the present day Mozu Kofungun consists of only 44 tombs. The largest of the tombs is Nintoku-tenno-ryo Kofun having a mound length of 486 metres. It is also one of the grandest tombs in the world alongside the Great Pyramid of Giza and China’s Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. The ancient tombs are currently on the tentative list for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Since the ancient mounds are protected and restricted to the public, you can learn more about kofun and the history of Sakai at Sakai City Museum. At the Mozu Kofungun Theatre, the VR (virtual reality) technology provides the opportunity for travellers to ‘fly over’ the tumulus and view the ancient and current appearance of the major tumuli and obtain explanation regarding the artefacts related to each tumulus. Address: 2 Mozusekiun-cho, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Access: 500m from Mozu Station on the JR Hanwa Line / 280m from Sakaishi Hakubutsukan-mae bus stop on the Nankai Bus Line
Ginshariya Geko-Tei Because economy rice is common in Malaysia and Indonesia thus considered mundane, I did not expect to enjoy my economy rice luncheon in Japan. When I walked into Ginshariya Geko-tei, I was brimming with excitement seeing trays of cooked tempura, sashimi, grilled fishes, vegetables and Japanese-styled omelette. Here, I learned about the Japan’s wizard of rice, Tsutomu Murashima, who opened Ginshariya Geko Tei in 1963. He cooked rice with water soaked with oyster shells and charcoal to improve its quality. Ginshariya Geko-Tei’s glossy and aromatic sticky rice is delicious that it keeps on attracting diners to its place even after 25 years since it first opened. Address: 1-1-30 Shinzaikechonishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture
Kanbukuro Just across the street from Ginshariya Geko-Tei lies the wondrously ancient dessert shop established in 1329 known as Kanbukuro, which sells its signature items: walnut mochi, a small rice cake covered with sweet green bean paste, and shaved ice walnut mochi. The shop closes when all items are sold out. Address: 1-2-1, Shinzaikecho-higashi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Access: 3-minute walk from Terajicho bus or 10 minutes’ walk from Mikunigaoka Station on JR Hanwa Line
Sakai Plaza of Rikyu and Akiko Sakai Plaza of Rikyu consists of Sen No Rikyu Chanayo Museum, Yosano Akiko Museum, Chanoyu Experience Rooms and Tourist Information Space. There is no other place better to learn about the tea ceremony than Sakai city itself, which is the birthplace of the great tea master, Sen no Rikyu, who is credited for studying and perfecting chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony). There are also reproductions of two tea rooms in which Rikyu spent his final years. For a genuine chashitsu tea room experience, travellers should attempt at participating in an authentic chanoyu at Chanoyu Experience Room. We tried the casual Ryurei tea ceremony, on which we sat on stools while enjoying matcha green tea and Japanese sweets. Throughout the tea ceremony, we were taught the chanoyu etiquette such as how to properly accept sweets and tea and how to greet the host of the tea ceremony with gratitude.
Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum We also visited the Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum which was only a fiveminute walk from Tsubouchi Tea House. The museum exhibits the traditional craft skill of the Sakai people namely the art of knife-making, incense-making, traditional cloth-dyeing, cloth-weaving and Japanese confectionary culture. Sakai was renowned for its production of iron tools, believed to begin back in 5th Century A.D. during the Kofun Period for construction of the tombs, which then prospered as a place for arms production and cutlery. Today, Sakai is known for its highquality Sakai knives, the majority of which are used by professional chefs all over Japan and overseas. On the first floor, the showroom exhibits knives for variety of purposes such as filleting and slicing fishes or sushi-cutting. On the ground floor, Sakai’s other traditional crafts are displayed for sale.
Address: 2-1-1 Shukuin-Cho Nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Access: One minute on foot from Shukuin Sta. Hankai Line/ Approx. 10 minutes-walk from Sakai Sta, Nankai Main Line
Address: 1-11-30 Zaimoku-cho Nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Access: Sakai Higashi Station on the Nankai Koya Line
Tsubouchi Tea House We hopped on the Hankai Tramway and later walked along a street lined with old buildings. I found Sakai city nostalgic apart from being highly cultured. Out of the sudden, our tour guide signalled us to enter an old shophouse that looked empty from the outside. Little did we know, the 340-year old building is Tsubouchi Tea House where the Premium Matcha Parfait is made from green tea ice cream, handmade red bean paste, milk and jellies, and shaved ice topped with matcha syrup. On normal days, a long queue forms in front of the Tsubouchi Tea House before you can be seated. Address: 4-2-23 Kainocho Higashi Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Access: Take the Hankai tramway Hankai Line, it is within walking distance from Ayanocho Station or Myokokuji-Mae Station.
Knives-making craft at Mizuno Tanrenjo From the showroom at Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum, we went to Mizuno Tanrenjo to see for ourselves the ancient traditional Japanese swordmaking technique that has been handed down from generation to generation as demonstrated by Atsushi Mizuno, the 5th generation of Mizuno family. Mr Mizuno used a spring hammer to bang out the blades forged from steel over traditional charcoal fire and straw ash. The Mizuno Tanrenjo is famous for producing the traditional Japanese kitchen knives called ‘Sakai Uchi’. Address: 1-1-27, Sakurano-cho-nishi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture
21st floor observatory deck at Sakai City Hall Standing at the height of 80 metres above ground, the 21st floor
observatory deck at Sakai City Hall is the best place to see the whole Sakai City and Kofun tumuli. It is best viewed during the day when you can even see Japan’s tallest skyscraper Abeno Harukas, which houses a train station, hotel, museum, department store and offices. Address: 3-1 Minamikawara-machi, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture
Conger Eel Full Course Dinner at City Hotel Seiunso We concluded our 5D4N Kansai Food Trip by having another exotic cuisine, which was the conger eel full course dinner at City Hotel Seiunso, Sakai. The conger eel is a seawater eel, locally known as anago. Unlike unagi, the conger eel is caught wild from its natural habitat. With crispy fried eel bones as starter, we feasted on the range of food prepared from a medium-size conger eel such as the anago sushi; anago hot pot simmered with mushroom, tofu and other vegetables; pickled vegetables; thin-sliced anago and salad with anago dressing; bonito flakes; and grilled anago. The succulent lean meat of the conger eel leaves behind a light sweet-yet-mild aftertaste in the mouth compared to unagi. Address: 2-4-14, Dejima Kaigandori, Sakai-ku, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture Access: Three-minute walk from Minato Station on Nankai Rail Line; advanced booking is required.
Souvenirs Shopping at Don Quijote As we spent our final night in Japan at Viainn Abeno Tennoji, we had the opportunity to discover Don Quijote, situated on the ground floor of Abeno Tennoji. Don Quijote is the largest discount stores, with over 150 stores throughout Japan and operates 24 hours with no regular closing day. The Don Quijote stores have over 45,000 products from everyday items to high end. Travellers can shop for souvenir food and quirky electrical appliances to bring home. It is always interesting to wander around a Japanese store and buy daily objects that you never thought existed. We must thank the Japanese for
their peculiar attention to life’s nittygritty details and their attempt to make our lives better by addressing those needs. Recommended Stay in Kansai Region 1. Granvia Osaka 3-1-1, Umeda Kita-ku, Osaka | Located above JR Osaka Station | Room prices range from RM800 to RM3,000 per room per night 2. Viainn Abeno Tennoji 1-1-7 Asahi-cho, Abeno-ku, Osaka | 5 minutes’ walk from Tennoji Subway Station | Room prices range from RM300 to RM600 per room per night Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to Kansai Gastronomy Tourism Promotion Council Office, Japan Railway Company, Keihan Group, Don Quijote Group, Sakai Tourism and Convention Bureau, and Wendy Tour for making the writer’s Kansai region food trip possible. 077
Zigzag from Left to Right: Kanbukuro walnut mochi, an ancient desser t; Ryurei tea ceremony at Sakai Plaza of Rikyu; Premium Matcha Parfait at Tsubouchi Tea House; Shaved ice with matcha syrup, another Tsubouchi Tea House delicacy; Savouring the conger eel full course dinner at City Hotel Seiunso, Sakai; Learn the ar t of knife-making at Sakai City Traditional Crafts Museum; Ancient tombs of Sakai City; The old school Hankai Tramway runs through the city of Sakai.
Keihan’s Special Sightseeing Pass One of the useful sightseeing passes that travellers can use to experience Kansai gastronomic trail is the Keihan Pass, which allows travellers to visit Kyoto’s World Heritage sites, admire Japanese culture or extend their sightseeing trip to Osaka. You can opt for Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass (1 day or 2 days), Kyoto Sightseeing Pass (1 day) or Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass (Keihan + Osaka Subway) depending on your travel plan. For more info and itinerary ideas when exploring Kyoto and Osaka with Keihan Pass, visit https://www. keihan.co.jp/.You can buy the pass from Kansai Tourism Information Centre, Kansai International Airport Terminal, KEIHAN Tourist Information Centre Gionshijo or other Keihan sales locations. Kansai Area Pass by JR-WEST To follow Kansai gastronomic trail, travellers are encouraged to use the Kansai Area Pass by JR-WEST that offers travellers unlimited rides on the KansaiAirport Express “HARUKA” and local trains with non-reserved seats, including West JR Bus in the area. With Kansai Area Pass, you can travel in Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Himeji, Wakayama, Shiga,Tsuruga, Iga-Ueno with ease. It is advisable to buy the JR-WEST Rail Pass in advance because the train ticket is more expensive if bought over the counter in Japan.The price ranges from ¥2,200 for a one-day pass to ¥6,300 for a four-day pass.There is also a 5 day pass (¥9,000) to travel to Kansai more widely (KANSAI WIDE AREA PASS). Malaysians can buy the pass of their choice at JTB Malaysia in Isetan KLCC, Suria KLCC or AEON Shah Alam Mall. For more information, visit http://www. westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket
Stay Connected in Japan
SECURE Wi-Fi Access
TRAVEL JAPAN Wi-Fi by Wire and Wireless Co., Ltd. A useful app to use when travelling around Japan is the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi. Currently, Japan has 92,000 registered W-Fi hotspot, mainly at major airports and train stations, including places like Seven-Eleven, Japanâ€™s largest convenience store chain. Travellers can download the app from Googleplay or AppStore onto their smartphones. Once downloaded and opened, e-mail registration is required for first time usage. Be sure to turn on the Global Positioning System (GPS) and then use the search feature on the app to locate nearby Wi-Fi hotspots.Travellers can then start getting connected to Wi-Fi at various hotspots by pressing the connect button on the app. In addition, the app recommends translation apps, ATM locaters and other services that make travel in Japan easier.
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Following the Beats of Selangor via
Rentak Selangor International 2018 Te x t b y Nu r s y a z w a n i R o s l a n I m a g e s b y Na b i l F i k r y
On the surface, Selangor might look like just another typical Malaysian state located next to Kuala Lumpur that is already well developed. However, despite its progress, the ethnic groups residing in the state still hold on to diverse cultures and traditions, adding vibrancy and colour to Selangor and making it an interesting destination for travellers to discover. In view of the ethnic diversity and richness that Selangor possesses, the state government’s Committee for Youth Development, Sports, Cultural and Entrepreneurship Development and Selangor State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN), together with Citra Ugik and Gaya Travel Magazine, collaborated in organising a four-day and three-night familiarisation programme called Rentak Selangor International 2018 from 1 until 4 March 2018, which intended to increase public awareness towards Selangor’s cultural diversity, especially the ethnic groups’ traditional performing arts. Being the third ‘Rentak Selangor’ event held by the state government, the programme in 2018 was participated by selected media, bloggers and social media influencers not only from Malaysia and Indonesia but also South Korea and Japan to discover what Selangor has to offer, not only in terms of tourism attractions but also traditional performing arts and musical heritage. Which Traditional Performances to Watch in Selangor? Madduppa Bosara Dance The Bugis community in Selangor, whose ancestors originated from Sulawesi and are now assimilated with the local Malay population, are welcoming towards their guests. The Madduppa Bosara, which means ‘the act of holding trays that carry the wadah (container)’ filled with food to be served to guests. The movement of the dance resembles the traditional act of the Bugis serving food when welcoming guests to symbolise their gratitude and respect. At the end of the dance, the dancers will approach the audience, untie the bosara (tray) filled with kueh (traditional local pastries) and invite the members of the audience to savour them. Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494)
Poja Dance The Poja dance is a popular Bugis dance that symbolises the predominant local culture of Selangor. The movements of this dance intend to revere the ruler and usually performed for the sultan during leisure. The usage of fragrant flowers symbolises the good deeds that the sultan has done for the people and the country. These days, this dance is performed not only for the pleasure of the royals but also for the public as a welcome dance. Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494) Batara Dance This dance portrays the connection between human and the Lord of all universes. It then evolved into a performance that expresses the commoners’ love and loyalty toward Ulul Amri or local ruler (king or sultan) whose role is always to safeguard the state and its people. This dance expresses the commoners’ respect and gratitude towards the ruler, befitting the ruler’s role back when he was venerated as ‘The Shadow of God’ and ‘Khalifah’ on earth. Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494) Bunga Tanjung Dance Bunga tanjung (the flower of Mimusops elangi, also known as Spanish cherry) has been recognised as the official flower of Selangor ever since the founding of the royal house of Selangor in 1700s. This flower is appreciated for its aesthetics and sentimental value. The Bunga Tanjung dance is performed by women to represent the gracefulness, politeness, gentility and preciousness of the Malay ladies, similar to the delicate, fragrant and beautiful nature of the Spanish cherry, which grows high up on the trees. Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494) Makan Sirih Dance Since welcoming guests wholeheartedly is an integral part of the Malay culture, Makan Sirih is a Malay classical dance often performed to welcome and appreciate those who are present during an auspicious occasion. The betel leaf, which has been a significant part of Malay culture since ancient times and introduced to them by the ancient traders from the Indian subcontinent, is to be chewed with areca nut mixed with spices and even tobacco, believed to promote dental health. The dance signifies deference and respect to the guests by offering them a sheaf of sirih (betel leaf ) nicely presented in tepak sirih (special betel leaf case) for chewing, which is a way for the host to strengthen bond with the guests. Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494) Rampaian Tari Melayu Tradisi The Rampaian Tari Melayu Tradisi combines three types of
classical Malay dances that have been passed from generation to generation: zapin, joget and asli. The zapin was derived from the Arabic word zaffan, which is more focused on the movement of the feet, developed and adapted into Malay culture. The joget is believed to be influenced by the Portuguese, which is joyful and performed during happy occasions. Tarian asli is created to suit the beat of traditional Malay songs since time immemorial. Contact: Mr Mazi (+6 019 328 7494) Kuda Kepang Kuda kepang (flat horse) is an all-male dance originated from Java whereby each individual dancer straddles on a flat horse made from braided strips of woven bamboo, generally colourful and decorated with bead and sequins, and painted with bright colours. Even though the initial steps of this dance portray a troop of riders riding on horses, the dancers eventually break away on their own when they go into a trance due to the mantras they chant while dancing. When these dancers are in trance, they seemed to be possessed by animal spirits like monkey, snake, elephant or bird while displaying extraordinary abilities like ripping off the thick coconut husk from the shell using their teeth and hands, climbing up high trees, chewing on flowers and even flaming cigarettes and glass shards. Contact: Wak Rahman (+6 013 607 7025) Wayang Kulit & Gamelan The wayang kulit (shadow puppet play) is an ancient form of Malay theatre using lights and shadows to entertain the public through story-telling. Believed to have originated from Java since pre-Islamic times, wayang kulit is led by the Tok Dalang (main puppeteer), who competently manoeuvres the puppets to nod, speak, laugh, walk, dance and fight. Each story, though entertaining and popular among adults and children, bears its own lessons. This performance is normally accompanied by Javanese gamelan music. The word gamelan itself means pounded upon, referring to the unique percussions that form the Javanese gamelan ensemble. Contact: Wak Kusnan (+6 013 609 2625) Urumee Melum The Indians are well known for their vivacity and merriment, well reflected in their traditional music and dances. Their music is often played in full blast, accompanied by infectious beats that make listeners want to jump up and join in the performance. The Urumee Melum is one of the most vibrant and essential Indian traditions in Malaysia. Its performance is widely believed to possess deep sacred power since it is associated with the ‘calling of the spirits’ during religious rituals. Contact: Mr Vicky (+6 016 203 8390)
Where to Visit? Mah Meri Cultural Village of Carey Island (mmcv.org.my) Mah Meri is one of the 18 tribes of aboriginal people living in Peninsular Malaysia. The Mah Meri is also known as people with scales or sea gypsies because they used to live near the sea before being chased away by pirates. This tribe is famous for its expertise in crafts especially wood carvings, leaf origami and weaving. The tribe’s culture is also rich with traditional songs and dances. This tribe lives around in Carey Island in Selangor. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the members of the Mah Meri community who performing Mayin Jo’oh, a traditional dance to invite the spirits of their ancestors to join in the festivity. The programme participants were then invited us to dance together and play the traditional musical instruments like the tuntog (bamboo stampers), jule (viola), tambo (doubleheaded drum) and a-tawa (brass gong). The participants also tried their hands at leaf-weaving. After lunch, the participants were take to the Muyang (ancestors) house, now used as a place of worship and praying for the dead. Contact: Puan Maznah (Tel: +6 010 252 2800) 082
Sultan Alam Shah Museum This commanding blue-roofed building preserves and exhibits valuable and historical artefacts. The museum is divided into several galleries: history, culture, natural heritage, Islamic heritage, and repository room, including a hall for temporary exhibition that changes every three months. Travellers can also try out traditional costumes and witness cultural shows during their visit. When we were there, the temporary exhibition hall was holding a fascinating exhibition entitled Botologi Malaya, which showcased fascinating collections of vintage bottles by international brands like Coke, Pepsi and Mirinda before Malaysian independence, including local brands such as Long Chan and Kasturi, all loaned from avid bottle collectors. Operating hours: Monday to Sunday | 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday | 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Temporary closed from 12.00 noon to 2.30 pm) Closed during the 1st & 2nd Day of Eid Mubarak & Eid Adha Selangor International Islamic Arts Complex (yayasanrestu.com/) This arts complex features the aesthetic achievement of Islamic culture through its three galleries. What’s so special about this place is the fact that it does not only feature the copying of
the Quran manuscripts and Islamic artefacts but the whole complex is developed in accordance to Islamic principles and etiquettes demonstrated by Prophet Muhammad, for instance, the hexagonal design of the building represents the six pillars of faith in Islam. The main gallery offers a three-dimensional exhibition entitled Rehlah Nabawiyyah comprising 21 segments of the life of Prophet Muhammad, showcased through miniature, models and 3D animation, including scaled-down but exact replica of the house belonging to Prophet Muhammad and his wife Aisyah and miniatures of the iconic battles that Prophet Muhammad led. When you enter the exhibition, it is as if you’re transported back to the days during the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. Operating hours: Opens everyday | 10.00 am to 5.00 pm Admission Ticket: Rehlah Nabawiyyah (Main Gallery) Adult RM25 | Children/ Student/Senior Citizen RM15 Free admission for Gallery 2 & 3 Bandar Jugra Palace A remarkably iconic palace belonging to the Selangor royal family located in Kuala Langat, Bandar Jugra Palace has remained uninhabited by the royal household since the death of Sultan Alaeddin in 1938. However, travellers could still visit the compounds of this palace during the day. The participants of the programme were informed that there are plans to furnish this palace to bring back its past glory, which might include the Balairung Seri (the space where the Sultan grants audience, equivalent to the throne room), Kamar Beradu (Sultan’s bedroom cum private chamber), and Dapur (kitchen). Though its interior is currently sparse, this magnificent twostorey building offers angles that promises Instagram-worthy shots. Batu Caves One of the iconic landmarks in the Gombak district of Selangor, Batu Caves attracts thousands of Hindu worshippers who come to pray at the Hindu temples and shrines housed within a limestone outcrop containing three caverns. As travellers arrived at the site, before climbing up the 272 steps to access the caverns, temples and shrines, they are greeted by the statue of Lord Murugan, which is the tallest Hindu deity statue in Malaysia and second in the world. Worshippers and travellers will be able to enjoy the magnificent view of the mesmerising city skyline once they reach the top of the steps. Contact: Batu Caves Temple Management Office (+6 03 6189 6284)
Clockwise from Top Left: Mah Meri ladies demonstrating how tuntog is played as a musical instrument; Urumee Melum being performed within the grounds that front the steps leading up to the Batu Caves; Wak Rahman explaining on the instruments and props used during Kuda Kepang performa nce; Learning about Islamic calligraphy at Selangor International Islamic Arts Complex.
What to Eat? Exotic dishes at Lembah Bernam Restaurant (facebook.com/Restoran-LembahBernam) On our way to Sekinchan, we stopped by at Lembah Bernam Restaurant, where diners can savour exotic specialities like porcupine rendang, stewed black pepper venison, fried rabbit, ikan baung masak lemak cili api (freshwater yellow catfish cooked with coconut milk, turmeric and chilli), ikan sepat goreng berlada (spicy fried gourami fish), ulam-ulaman (herbs and vegetables eaten on the side) and sambal belacan (traditional Malay dipping sauce made from chillies, lime juice, shrimp paste, sugar and salt). Although the menu is new to the participants, all of them enjoyed those dishes, particularly the porcupine rendang!
Operating hours: Open Monday to Sunday (closed on Friday) | 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Price: Porcupine 200 grams | RM24 Mousedeer 200 grams | RM16 Rabbit 200 grams | RM15
potatoes, carrots and topped with mixed nuts like almonds, cashews and raisins. After cooking, the pot is flipped upside down onto a large tray before being served. This dish is accompanied by fresh cucumber salad and sweetspicy sauce. Those who come to Spiced Pumpkin Café should also savour its kunafa (soft mozzarella blanketed in shredded phyllo dough and showered with orange syrup), which is simply divine!
Where to Stay?
Homestay Kg Haji Dorani (doranihomestay.com) Homestay Kg Haji Dorani offers an idyllic escape from the bustling city life. Travellers who stay can wake up to the soothing view of the serene paddy fields and the sounds of chirping birds. Besides the chance to stay at a traditional kampung (village) house, there are several packages that include activities for travellers to experience such as batikdrawing, paddy-planting and harvesting, firefly-watching and witnessing the enchanting and mystical kuda kepang performance.
Concorde Hotel Shah Alam (shahalam.concordehotelsresorts.com/) When staying at Concorde Hotel Shah Alam, don’t miss out the hotel’s extensive breakfast spread ranging from different kinds of Malay rice dishes such as nasi lemak, nasi kerabu and nasi dagang to Western, Chinese and Indian fare. With such variety, guests are bound to feel eager to start their day with a hearty meal. Concorde Hotel Shah Alam is also easily accessible with a shopping mall across the street and rooms with the views of the famous Shah Alam
A+ Boutique Hotel (facebook.com/aplusboutiquehotel/) This is a boutique hotel in Sekinchan that offers comfortable rooms - some of them even have adorable cartoon themes and carousel inside. Moreover, the décor around the hotel is unique; guests should look out for the hotel’s threedimensional wall art and take photos with it.
Nasi Ambeng Nasi Ambeng is a traditional Javanese dish consisting of white rice, pieces of chicken, vegetables, traditional Javanese fried sambal, coconut floss and fried noodle all served on a big tray meant to be shared among two to five people. The dishes served on the tray depend on the districts or places, whereby some even include fish or meat. Traditionally, the dishes are directly eaten from the tray at the same time using each of the diner’s right hand. This practice is believed to help foster camaraderie and comradeship. Palestinian Dish Maqlabah at Spiced Pumpkin Café (facebook.com/SpicedPumpkin) A traditional dish from Palestine, maqlubah is a soft fluffy spiced rice dish cooked in a large pot over an open fire together with several other ingredients such as chicken, beef or mutton, brinjals,
Left: Some of the exotic dishes served at Lembah Bernam Restaurant Right: The decadent kunafa served at Spiced Pumpkin Cafe
Te x t b y N U R S YA Z WA N I R O S L A N Images by JUHAN KAMARUDDIN & MOHAMAD NABIL FIKRY
Johor – the southern-most state on Peninsular Malaysia bordering Singapore – has always been the territory that I would love to live in besides Kuala Lumpur. It has many things to offer, from lush greenery, heritage buildings, modern city life, and many types of food that is bound to amaze foodies and gourmands alike. It is one of the more popular states in Malaysia that brims with fun-filled attractions that are suitable for travellers of all age groups, especially families with children. From 9 until 12 April 2018, Tourism Johor collaborated with Gaya Travel Magazine in organising a familiarisation trip involving 30 selected journalists, bloggers and influencers to experience the delights of Johor. The trip brought the participants to various destinations that should be on all travellers’ itinerary when they happen to visit this state.
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE? Sanrio Hello Kitty Town (puteriharbour.com/play/sanrio-hello-kitty/) Everybody knows the cutest cat in the whole wide world is Hello Kitty! Though Hello Kitty originated in Japan, she has a special little home in Johor. My inner five-year old self screamed with excitement as I explored her home, watched and danced along with Hello Kitty and friends, and experienced interactive activities together with the whole family. Note: Hello Kitty’s neighbour, Thomas & Friends, also offers fun activities for the whole family as well! Operating hours: Wednesday – Monday | 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Sanrio Hello Kitty Town RM85 | Two-park Pass RM125
Top: The adorable Hello Kitty awaits visitors at Sanrio Hello Kitty Town Bottom: The oversized replica of Sultan of Johor’s Crown at Laman Mahkota
LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort (legoland.com.my/) There seems to be no age limit for those who enjoy theme parks and what better way to spend quality time with your family than at LEGOLAND theme park in Johor, which is only one of the six LEGOLAND theme parks in the world! The LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort comprises a family-friendly hotel with themed rooms, LEGO theme park, LEGO waterpark and soon to open Sea-Life Park. During our short visit, we simply had to try the world’s first LEGO Virtual Reality roller coaster, which offers a thrilling and adventurous ride, making us want to explore more of the park’s grounds that are replete with characters and miniature buildings made from LEGO bricks, including replicas of famous landmarks such as Taj Mahal, Petronas Twin Towers and more. Operating hours: Daily | 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Laman Mahkota, Istana Bukit Serene Since I am a person who simply loves taking in the cool tropical breeze at night and hang out with friends and family, I find that Laman Mahkota, situated close to the gates of Istana Bukit Serene (Serene Hill Palace), is perfect to spend quality time with them in Johor Bahru. Laman Mahkota is where travellers can find the oversized replica of the Sultan of Johor’s Crown – supported by four curved pillars that almost resemble arches – hovering above their heads, making it an interesting subject to photograph. At night, the place illuminates with a sense of grandeur. The park is also beautifully adorned with water fountains that lit up with coloured lights in the evening.
Johor Bahru’s Zero-Kilometre Monument This landmark – located just in front of Johor Bahru post office – indicates the starting point when distances are measured in Johor. Don’t miss taking pictures here to gloat that you’ve been to the starting point of Johor Bharu, which surprisingly not many people knew. Sultan Ismail Building Sultan Ismail Building – located within Johor’s seat of administration called Kota Iskandar (www.kotaiskandar.com), around 18 kilometres away from Johor Bahru city centre – is the place where Johor State Legislative Assembly meets. This grand building, which sports Moorish-Andalusian and JohorMalay architectural styles, is the place where the members of the public can learn how legislations for the state of Johor are debated and passed. As travellers enter the building, they are welcomed by a water feature flanked by two large curved staircases just like in Bollywood movies, which make for nice Instagram shots. Upstairs is the Johor State Legislative Assembly Hall, cleverly embellished with symbols denoting Johor’s economic wealth from the past such as motifs of black pepper and gambier. Note: Check out the design of the building’s ceiling, which takes cues from the shape of the pineapple flower because Johor is one of the major pineapple exporters in Malaysia. Operating hours: Daily | 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. *except Mondays & Public Holidays
Angry Birds Activity Park KOMTAR (angrybirdsactivitypark.my) Remember the time when everyone was addicted to the game called Angry Birds where we virtually throw colourful birds using a slingshot to defeat the mean green pigs? Then visiting the Angry Birds Activity Park inside the popular KOMTAR JBCC (www.komtarjbcc.com.my) shopping centre would surely turn the game into reality! When we arrived at the park, the staff together with the character called The Bomb (black round bird) welcomed us with two dance numbers. We then jumped on trampolines, leaped into a foam pit, tested our balance and shot mean green pigs. Travellers with children should also give other attractions like go-karting, air bag-jumping, slide and obstacle courses a try if they have more time in their hands. These activities are totally safe for children and there is staff stationed at each attraction. Operating hours: Daily | 10:00 a.m. till 10:00 p.m.
Top: The impressive Johor State Legislative Assembly Hall inside Sultan Ismail Building in Kota Iskandar Bottom: The Observation Tower at Legoland Malaysia Resort
Clockwise from Top Left: Tan Sri Datoâ€™ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium in Larkin, the home of Johor Darul Taâ€™zim ( JDT) football club, also known as the Johor Southern Tigers; There are over 1,000 crocodiles raised in captivity at Teluk Sengat Crocodile World; Getting up close and personal with a lobster at Mendana Strait Floating Chalet; Idyllic surroundings of Kampung Belukar Durian in Sedili.
Tan Sri Dato’ Hj. Hassan Yunos Stadium at Larkin (johorsoutherntigers.com.my) The much-celebrated Johor Darul Ta’zim Football Club (simply known as JDT) is held by Johoreans in high esteem, owned by His Royal Highness Major General Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim, The Crown Prince of Johor. The Tan Sri Dato’ Hj. Hassan Yunos Stadium, also known as Larkin Stadium, now painted in bright blue and red, is the newest addition to Johor’s attractions after being renovated and home to the club. Travellers can definitely feel the roaring spirit of Johor when entering the stadium. There is also a Johor-Japan football gallery that chronicles Japan’s success in qualifying the 1998 World Cup in France.
Desaru Fruit Farm (desaruff.com) Desaru Fruit Farm is a 180-acre fruit farm that cultivates various tropical fruits such as durian, mango, mangosteen, guava, dragon fruit, rose apple, jackfruit, starfruit and passion fruit, among others. Though this is a non-self-plucking fruit farm, travellers can feast on fresh luscious fruits after completing their tour. Besides the informative guided fruit farm tour, there are also bee farm and petting zoo as well. Touring this farm is indeed educational and the guide explains expertly. When it is time for fruit-tasting, we were lavishly served with fresh and sweet fruits that were too good to pass up.
Note: There are also JDT merchandise for sale like jerseys, key chains, lanyards and more.
Old Johor Fort Museum (www.jmm.gov.my/ms/muzium/ muzium-kota-johor-lama) First opened to the public in 2007, this museum – housed in a traditional wooden structure built in Malay vernacular using mortise and tenon method, devoid of any nail – exhibits information regarding Johor’s early beginnings before the founding of Tanjung Puteri, what we now called as Johor Bahru, in 1855. The museum is located within what is now a small village. Back in the 17th century, the site of the museum was where the fort of Old Johor was situated and served as one of the bases of the Old Johore Sultanate, which took up the Malay Sultanate mantle after the fall of Melaka Sultanate by the Portuguese. The lineage of the Melaka Sultanate was continued by the Old Johore Sultanate up until 1699, when Sultan Mahmud II died without an heir.
Johor Craft Complex (kraftangan.gov.my/en/craft-complex/ johor-craft-complex) Do you ever feel like you need to get your hands on items like traditional musical instruments, paintings and handicrafts? Travellers can surely do so when they visit the Johor Craft Complex, where they can witness live demonstrations in the making of handicrafts and playing of traditional musical instruments like kompang, angklung and gamelan ensemble. The centre also organises art classes and activities such as batik- colouring, wau-making (traditional Malay kites), tie-dyeing, keychain-making and more. Tip: Go there during weekends when the centre hosts car boot sale. Operating hours: Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Entrance ticket price Adult RM25 | Child RM20
Operating hours: Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Closed on First Day of Eid ul Fitr & Eid ul Adha Entrance is FREE
Teluk Sengat Crocodile World If Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter was here, he would’ve shouted ‘Crikey!’. I was utterly awestruck when witnessing the 1,000 crocodiles that are being reared in this farm, including the oldest that is already 156 years of age and another one that is tailless. I always have a special thing about crocodiles since I was a child because of ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ show. There’s something so amazing about this species that it’s impossible not to be amazed by them, especially the fact that they are not prone to illnesses. The owner of the farm said that she didn’t intend to inherit this farm from her father, but then things changed and now travellers to this place could see how passionate she is when she shares remarkable details about crocodiles and her experience rearing them, making the whole experience eye-opening. Travellers could even pet and take pictures with baby crocodiles. Operating hours: Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Entrance fees Adult RM8 | Child RM4 T: +6 07 8955220
Belukar Durian Wetlands, Tanjung Sedili (facebook.com/ KampungBelukarDurian/) Exploring the mangroves and learning about its ecosystem is educational. But that not all that travellers will get at Belukar Durian Wetlands; this place also offers funfilled activities to be enjoyed with friends and family like river-cruising, kayaking, bicycling, camping, and fishing. There are also chalets for travellers to rent if they wish to stay overnight and catch fireflies that light up the mangrove trees.
Horseshoe Crab Livestock and Hatchery Did you know that in Sedili Kecil, Johor, there is the only centre for horseshoe crab cultivation and hatchery in South East Asia? The centre accumulates horseshoe crab eggs, hatches them and rear the baby horsehoe crabs up to one year before releasing them back into the sea. This conservation effort helps to replenish the number of horseshoe crabs in the wild, particularly in the waters of Johor. Horseshoe crabs only reach sexual maturity when they are 14 years old. Due to overfishing, their number is dwindling fast and now each horseshoe crab retails up to RM15 due to high demand.
Mendana Strait Floating Chalet (facebook.com/ kongkongchaletterapungpasirgudang) Johor is blessed with fresh seafood due to its proximity to the South China Sea. At at Chalet Terapung Selat Mendana (Mendana Strait Floating Chalet) in Kong Kong Laut, an hour and 15 minutes’ drive from Johor Bahru city centre., travellers are bound to have an interesting dining experience above water where they can feast upon freshly caught marine life that are then prepared in different ways such as spicy flower crab, ikan siakap tiga rasa (fried sea bass drenched in three-flavoured sauce), sotong celup tepung (deep fried squid), and udang galah kari kering (Lobster cooked in dry curry). This place also offers chalets above water so that travellers can focus on fishing activities during their stay. Note: To get to the place also involves a five-minute boat ride. T: +6 013 480 6300
Johor Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets. com.my/johor-premium-outlets) What better way to end the trip with a shopping trip to Johor Premium
Outlets ( JPO), which is one of the state’s ultimate shopping havens. This is the place where travellers can shop for renowned brands like Gucci, Guess, Coach, Adidas, to local ones like Vincci and Padini sold at discounted prices. There are also food and beverage outlets like Dome, Starbucks, Marrybrown and more for famished shoppers or those who prefer to sit down and dine rather than shop. Tip: Since parts of the pedestrian areas of JPO are exposed to the elements, be sure to bring along caps and umbrellas just in case it rains or the sun scorches unbearably.
WHERE TO STAY? Jen Puteri Harbour Hotel (hoteljen.com/johor/) Jen Puteri Harbour Hotel, which is part of the world-renowned hospitality group Shangri-La stable, is luxurious, plush, and well thought out. From business-friendly to Hello Kittythemed rooms (children are sure to love ‘Hello Kitty of Oz’, ‘the Munchkin Village’, and ‘Captain’s Kitty’s Cabin’), this hotel offers memorable stay for
travellers of all ages. and more. Amari Hotel (amari.com/johor-bahru) Amari is a modern Thai hotel brand that is characterised by spaciousness, culture and philosophy. The décor of this hotel sports the colours and rhythms of modern Asia. It has 242 guestrooms and suites, meeting rooms, Breeze spa, and library. Guests are bound to enjoy the gastronomic offerings be it for breakfast, lunch and dinner at Amaya Food Gallery, where various Thai-influenced dishes are prepared by the chef using fresh ingredients. The presentation and flavours of the dishes harmonious fit with the modern Thai lifestyle. Sand & Sandals Desaru Beach Resort (sandandsandals.com/) This accessible yet tranquil resort, located on Desaru Coast, invites guests to luxuriate and indulge on the white sandy beach or by the pool or at the spa, as well as having fun with the activities offered. Sands & Sandals Desaru Beach Resort is much recommended for couples who seek sweet getaway. Some of the highlights of the resort are the couple suites that come with big heart-shaped bathtubs.
VIP Tour Around
Southern Thailand Te x t & I m a g e s b y FA R A H N A D I A H
When the invitation was extended to me, little did I know that I would be joining a fiveday VIP tour for the ASEAN Ladies’ Circle, a highly privileged club consisting of the wives of ASEAN ambassadors, foreign affairs ministers and attaches, to explore Krabi, Suratthani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat and Songkhla. The ASEAN Ladies’ Circle entourage led by Datin Seri Ismalina Ismail; Datin Seri Hafipah Mohd Shah; Datin Mariani Bongsu, spouse of Brunei Ambassador to Malaysia; and Madam Suwanna Phukphat, spouse of Thai Ambassador to Malaysia. The objective of the tour was to promote cultural exchange among club members, who entirely hail ASEAN countries. Eco Tour Around Koh Klang Leaving Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) 2 slightly after 1:30 p.m., we landed at Krabi International Airport after an hour and a half flight. Whisked into the luxury bus, we were transferred to Chao Fah Park Pier at Krabi Town to visit Koh Klang, a charming Muslim fishermen village on a 26 kilometres squared island on the mouth of Krabi river. To reach Koh Klang, we rode the long tail boat known locally as hua thong traversing Krabi river and mangroves. It took only 10 minutes to reach Koh Klang via Baan Ma Yhing [(Facebook: Baan Ma Ying)(Website: www. baanmaying.com)(Contact Number: +66 081 271 6102)(Opening hours: 9am – 8pm)], a famous halal seafood restaurant where we enjoyed coconut drinks and snacks before proceeding with our tour. As there is no car allowed on the island, we hopped on the multi-coloured three-seater tuk tuk to commute around Koh Klang. Our first stop was a shop selling the organic Sangyod rice, a type of brown rice only grown in Koh Klang. The quality of the Sangyod rice is unrivalled due to it being planted in a mix of fresh and saltwater. Tourists who come to the shop could try their hands at pounding the grains using traditional wooden mortar and pestle. We also had the opportunity to roam the paddy fields and witnessed paddy-harvesting demonstration, first done manually and the other using a harvesting machine. The paddy fields set against the contrasting blue skies make excellent photos. We then indulged in colouring handkerchief-sized cloth patterned with motifs of nature after learning about pateh, Thailand’s version of batik. The only difference is that the production of pateh uses the metal blocks that are already carved with intricate and complex designs. Before leaving the charming Koh Klang, a sumptuous dinner at Baan Ma Yhing is a must. The all-time favourite dish at this restaurant is definitely the oregano crab.
Clockwise from Top Left: Panoramic view of Songkhla Lake from Koh Yorâ€™s Institute for Southern Thai Studies; The green paddy field in Koh Klang, Krabi; The ladies of Koh Klang demonstrated the colouring of pateh; VIP group picture on Poda Island; Child posing next to natural tie dye in Baan Khiri Wong.
Itime For Krabi’s Four-Island Hopping
Exploring The Royal Temple In Suratthani
Swimwear, beach bag, flip flop, sunglasses – all checked as we proceeded to Nopparat Thara Beach Pier to board our speed boat that would bring us around Krabi’s four islands: Tup, Koh Kai, Poda and Phra Nang. It is always exhilarating to be sitting on the open air deck of a speed boat basking in the sun with the VIP view of the azure blue ocean, rugged limestone rocks and natural arch surrounding Krabi’s famous four islands. Tup Island and Chicken Island are connected via a sand bank. During low tide, it is possible to walk from one island to the other. Though there aren’t many corals around, thousands of small tropical reef fishes are ready to feed on your dead cells. Of course it felt ticklish as they nibble away, but it is importantly that you do not get panicked. We also snorkelled to see the underwater beauty of Krabi islands. We also had our halal barbeque lunch on Poda complete with somtam, which is spicy green papaya salad, a traditional Thai dish. The last spot we visited was Phra Nang. Therein lies a cave dedicated to a princess goddess named Phra Nang. Interestingly, the cave is associated with fertility and offerings come in the forms of phallus. The stretch from Phra Nangup towards the shores of Railay is popular among climbers and there are more than 600 climbing routes for them to choose.
On the third day of the trip, we departed for Surat Thani, which is two hours’ drive away from Krabi. We stopped for lunch at Sugarree Muslim Restaurant [(GPS Coordinate: 9.169012,99.139848)(Contact No: +66 86 685 4971) (Opening hours: 24 hours)] where we were introduced to local dishes such as khonon jin, southern Thai rice noodle with fish or crab curry and Thai stuffed crab. We then proceeded to Wat Praborommathat Chaiya Worawahin [(GPS Coordinate: 9.384637,99.184270)(Contact No: +66 62 202 2511)], a royal temple of the highest rank. Inside, there is a structure containing Chaiya Buddha’s relics, believed to have been built around the 13th or 14th century. The Chaiya Buddha’s Relics is the symbol of Surat Thani province and the advent of Buddhism in Surat Thani over a thousand years ago. We also explored Chaiya National Museum [(GPS Coordinate: 9.384637,99.184270)(Contact No: +66 7743 1066) (Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4p.m.)] that contain valuable artefacts since the times of Sumatra-originated Srivijaya rule back in the 8th century, situated next to the royal temple. It was interesting to find out that the Srivijaya empire was responsible in expanding Buddhism to the whole of Peninsula Malaysia and Southern Thailand, and the fact that Chaiya was one of its capitals. Before leaving for our next destination, which was Nakhon Sri Thammarat, we went shopping for good quality silk at Pha Mai Phum Riang. We had dinner at Chao Rue Restaurant in Nakhon Sri Thammarat. Wat Phro Mathat Woramahawihan & The Eco Village Of Baan Khiri Wong, Nakhon Si Thammarat On our fourth day exploring South Thailand, we visited Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, [(GPS Coordinate: 8.411015,99.966149)(Contact No: +66 75 343 411) (Opening hours: 8a.m.-5p.m.)] the main Buddhist temple of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. The present town of Nakhon Si Thammarat is the ancient town of Tambralinga, mentioned in the Pali cannon of Buddhism as one of the prosperous port towns in the Eastern world since the 5th century. Inside the temple complex lies the gigantic-bell-shaped main stupa called Phra Borommathat Chedi, literally translated as the ‘Great Noble Relics Stupa’, which is directly inspired from Sri Lankan Buddhist art. This stupa is held sacred by Buddhists, which signifies the transfer of King Asoka stupa tradition from India to Sri Lanka, and the effort of preserving Buddhism by following King Asoka’s footstep.
Top left and bottom: No visit to Krabi is complete if you don’t visit the famous four islands of Krabii; Southern Thai signature dishes
Soon, we left for Baan Khiri Wong, [(Address: Tambon Kamlon, Amphoe Lan Saka, Nakhon Si Thammarat)(Contact No: +66 7530 9100)] the village located at the foothill of Khao Luang Mountain that stands 1,835 metres above sea level, which enjoys the purest air and best atmosphere in Thailand. Behind the tranquillity of Baan Khiri Wong is the story of local resilience and exemplary ecotourism management since the Khiri Wong community endured three severe natural disasters. The conferment of Thailand Tourism Awards to Baan Khiri Wong in 1998 attests to the effectiveness of community-based ecotourism in helping to uplift a community’s standard of living. Walking through a garden that grows stink bean, mangosteen, betel nut and various vegetables, we reached the workshop area where we had the opportunity to use our creativity in creating designs on a plain white handkerchief-sized cloth using tie-dying technique. To do that, each of us used wooden sticks to pin the cloth in various ways to come up with different patterns. Thereafter, our pieces of art were gathered and boiled in water mixed with natural tie-dyed materials such as tree leaves to give them colour. The beauty of tie-dye art is such that the final piece remains a surprise until the end of the process. The souvenirs of Nakhon Si Thammarat include silverware, brassware, nielloware and Yan Liphao basketry. Seafood In Koh Yor & Culture Learning At Institute For Southern Thai Studies On our final day, we went to Nodething to shop for natural palm fibre handbag with genuine leather. I was told that the brand is quite a hit among the Japanese. Some of us bought more than three bags at once. We had our lunch at Sirada Restaurant in Koh Yor. [(GPS Coordinate: 7.172551,100.546126)(Contact No: +66 74 591 595)(Opening hours: 10.30a.m.-9.30pm)]It is an open secret that if you want to eat fresh and reasonably priced seafood, Koh Yor is the place. We enjoyed pineapple fried rice, grouper fillet with Thai chilli sauce, salted egg soft shell crab, stuffed crab, and prawn in coconut tom yam, including water spinach. We also spent our time at Koh Yor’s Institute for Southern Thai Studies, established for studying, preserving and propagating southern Thai arts and cultures. It is also serves as museum with 30 exhibition rooms offering wide range of displays and programmes to introduce southern Thailand’s lifestyle, religions, traditions and means of livelihood. One particular interest is the jaw-dropping room containing over hundreds of coconut graters and trust me, you have to go and see them for yourself. From the Institute for Southern Thai Studies, you will be rewarded with the viewpoint of Songkhla Lake and aquaculture farms along its shores.
Top and bottom: Learning natural tie dye workshop in Baan Khiri Wong; Young Orchid tr ying her hands on the traditional coconut grater
No visit Songkhla is complete without having your photos taken with the mermaid bronze statue at Samila Beach. This statue, created in 1966 by Jitr Buabus, is taken from the main character of an old Thai story written by Soomthorn Phu, the great king poet of King Rama II. The story revolves around a mermaid who combed her hair with a golden comb on the beach. She was frightened away by a young fisherman who waited for her return but to no avail. Recommended stay: • Aonang Fiore Resort: 764, Moo 2 Ao Nang, Muang, Krabi 81180, Thailand • Twin Lotus Hotel: 97/8 Pattanakarn-kukwang Road, Amphoe Muang Nakhon Si Thammarat • Haad Kaew Resort: 163 Moo 1, T. Chiang Kao, Sing Nakhorn, Songkhla Gaya Travel Magazine expresses our heartfelt gratitude to Tourism Authority of Thailand for inviting the writer to be part of the VIP Tour to explore South Thailand together with the members of the ASEAN Ladies’ Circle, who were lovely travelling companions.
Two- D ay a n d a H a lf Ja u n t in
Text & Images by JUHAN KAMARUDDIN Additional Notes by AMEEN AZIZUL AZIZ
Bali definitely needs no introduction. This already world-famous destination dubbed as ‘Island of the Gods’ is a mere 33 minutes’ flight from Lombok International Airport, an hour and 50 minutes from Jakarta, three hours from Kuala Lumpur and two hours and 45 minutes from Singapore. This destination is ideal for incredibly short getaways from any point in South East Asia (including northern parts of Australia) since it is well connected and remarkably accessible with well developed tourism infrastructure. When in Bali, besides winding down and trying to do as little as possible, be sure to also indulge in touristy things like watching the Kecak Dance at Uluwatu (Mobile: +62 81 629 7032 (I Nyoman Adi Ardika) / +62 81 6470 7984 (I Nyoman Sudarta)) during sunset, situated alongside a gorgeous cliff close to the namesake temple. The crowd’s favourite character is the agile and comical Hanuman the Monkey King from the Ramayana and Sita Dewi Hindu epic. In line with travellers trying to understand the significance of Balinese Hindu, they can then proceed to the open-air cultural park christened as Garuda
Wisnu Kencana (gwkbali.com), derived from the colossal sculpture made from copper and brass of the Hindu deity Wisnu (The Preserver) riding on the mythically gigantic bird-like creature named Garuda, designed by the accomplished and celebrated Balinese artist I Nyoman Nuarta. The whole park is composed of varying spaces to suit different purposes and functions. One such space that took our breath away is the large open air area called Lotus Pond, which serves as the venue for large scale international events that can fit up to one thousand attendees.
Top: The view of the beach from The Sandals Restaurant at The Anvaya Beach Resor t Bali Bottom: Mouthwatering lunch spread ser ved at Bale Udang Mang Engking on Sunset Road in Kuta
Speaking of the collosal sculpture, the assembling of all parts of Wisnu and Garuda have been completed on 2 August 2018. As a whole, the dimensions of the actual sculpture now stands at 75 metres tall and 65 metres wide. Since the sculpture is also placed on a pedestal, its height eventually soars up to 121 metres, equivalent to a 21-storey building, 30 metres taller than the Statue of Liberty in the United States. Once travellers are done visiting Garuda Wisnu Kencana, how about checking into the sharp-looking 493-key property called The Anvaya Beach Resort Bali (www.theanvayabali. com) in #kuta, which is part of Santika Indonesia Hotels and Resorts (www.santika.com)? According to the hotel’s ebullient Assistant Director of Sales and Marketing Dewi Sartika Sibarani, The Anvaya Beach Resort Bali targets the more affluent set since it is Santika Indonesia Hotels and Resorts’ first five-star property, employing tasteful contemporary style that appeals to the sophisticated and design-conscious. The next morning, travellers can begin their exciting day in Bali by riding on a vintage 1970s Volkswagen Safari with convertible tops (www.ubudvwtour.com) to explore the wistful villages around the island, not just around Badung and Gianyar regencies but also to the other areas like Bedugul and Singaraja. It is interesting to ride around the island on these nostalgic vehicles, especially when the tops are put down, ideally during a clear morning when it is not yet too hot. The experience also allows travellers to take in the passing sceneries more closely without much impediment. Note from Ameen: When you’re in Bali, be sure to experience the amazing water-rafting activity in Ayung River provided by Alam Tirta Outbound (www.alamtirtaoutbound.com), an outbound service and outdoor adventure provider based in Sangeh that offers complete facilities, obstacles, equipment and gears on its grounds, ideal for thrilling outdoor experiences and corporate team-building sessions. The company’s office is surrounded by serene paddy fields and idyllic village-like environment, making it a great place to relax after completing the activities. The price to rent out a raft by Alam Tirta Outbound that fits up to six adults is IDR800,000 (around MYR230). Besides the adrenaline rush, travellers get the chance to navigate the exciting waters and rapids while witnessing the breathtaking view of the surrounding green environment, including the impressive stone carvings of Balinese Hindu deities alongside Ayung River. I must say, this is definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Bali. Since the rafting trail is around 10 kilometres, be sure to stop by at the riverside shops that sell drinks and snacks along the way to refresh yourself.
Another activity that travellers might want to experience is the three-hour long Balihai Sunset Dinner Cruise (www.balihaicruises.com/sunset-dinner-cruise/) around Tanjung Benoa. Travellers need to dock the cruise at Balihai Cruise Harbour, which is only around 20 minutes’ drive away from Kuta using the Bali Mandara Toll Road, a 12.7-kilometre bridge stretching across the Gulf of Benoa and links up Denpasar, South Kuta, Nusa Dua and Ngurah Rai International Airport. The cost per person to join the cruise is IDR750,000. Besides the chance to enjoy the memorable Balinese sunset view, travellers are also feted to a hearty buffet dinner and live entertainment, including disco dancing. The sunset cruise offers a fitting end to travellers’ two-day-and-a-half jaunt to Bali. Where to eat: • Bebek Tepi Sawah (www.bebektepisawahrestaurant. com) branch on Jalan Raya Tuban is located around five minutes from I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bali International Airport. Popular for its crispy duck and duck-related dishes as its specialty, including contemporary Western and Indonesian options, the branch in Tuban is ideal for travellers who are pressed for time when being in Bali. However, those who have more time in their hands should visit Bebek Tepi Sawah’s flagship restaurant in Ubud, which comes highly recommended because it has the feel of dining within a charming Balinese village, real paddy fields and baddling of ducks included. • Bale Udang Mang Engking (www.baleudang. com) restaurant on Sunset Road, which serves delicious seafood amidst atmospheric environment that is likened to dining by a lake in the Island of the Gods. This restaurant has another branch in Ubud that travellers should also experience because even though it does offer the same charming ambience, it might be more magical because the one in Ubud is surrounded by authentic Balinese rural idyll. Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism and the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Kuala Lumpur for making the writer’s trip to Bali a reality.
Kedah & Perlis:
Northern Malaysia’s Agrotourism Hotspots Te x t & I m a g e s b y M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J ELA N I
Kedah and Perlis are two of the four states located in the northern part of Peninsular Malaysia. While Kedah is famously known as Negeri Jelapang Padi (The Rice-Bowl State) since it produces up to one third of rice in Malaysia, Perlis, on the other hand, is the proud producer of the signature and ultimate type of mango: Harumanis. During the familiarisation trip with the theme ‘Road to Agrotourism - The North Series’ organised by Malaysia Tourism Council (MTC) with support from Muda Agriculture Development Authority (MADA), Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) and Farmers’ Organisation Authority (LPP), I realised that these two states are more than just paddy fields and sweet, aromatic mangoes. The trip successfully highlighted the hidden jewels of Kedah and Perlis relating to agriculture and holding immense potential to boost tourism, especially among agricultural and food enthusiasts. WHAT TO EXPERIENCE IN KEDAH?
Ladang Nipah Ismail Che Kaq
Our first stop upon arriving in Kedah was this place located in Yan. Under the shades of palm trees, travellers can expect to taste the delicious palm nectar (locally known as nira), freshly collected from the farm itself. According to its owner, Pak Ismail, the farm consists of 300 palm trees located next to his house, producing 30 to 40 litres of palm nectar a day. Besides the refreshing drink, travellers get to taste nira jelly, sweetmeats and vinegar made from palm nectar. Opens daily except Wednesday GPS: 5.870002, 100.379592 Contact No.: +6 012 435 5104
Kompleks Latihan MADA Alor Serdang
This might be an excellent place for those who intend to experience farming, catching fishes and planting paddy in traditional ways, which involve using nothing else but your own two hands. This venue is actually a training centre for locals to learn more about farming and become an agropreneur (agricultural entrepreneur). To learn the traditional ways of agriculture, travellers must come in large groups and make prior booking with MADA by emailing to email@example.com. This place also has accommodation facility that can take up to 50 people. Contact No.: +6 04 731 2162 / +6 04 731 2167
Tobiar Gold at Kampung Tobiar
Tobiar Gold is a brand for mango planted on a 40-hectare land in Kampung Tobiar. There are around 18,000 mango trees planted here from the Chokanan variety. Besides the chance to taste delicious mango (which
is obviously a must), travellers can also roam around the farm by foot, bicycle or tram. There is also an observation tower where travellers can climb up and admire the aerial view of the farm. Should travellers wish to try their hand at mango cultivation, they can learn the basics of growing mangos directly from the local farmers themselves. GPS: 6.063512, 100.485105 Contact No.: +6 04 772 8255
Located next to the panoramic view of paddy fields that is downright pleasing, Tamteh Homestay offers not only accommodation, but also the experience of living like the locals. This property is equipped with multipurpose hall, camping ground and prayer room, besides Wi-Fi service at public areas. GPS: 6.254051, 100.234517 Contact No.: +6 019 414 4343
crops in the world. The history and rice samples collected from all over the world, including modern and traditional instruments used in cultivating the crop are all showcased in this museum. But the main highlight of the museum is the eight-metre tall and 103-metre wide giant three-dimensional mural, said to be one of the largest in Malaysia. The mural offers travellers the chance to take in the magnificent view of Kedah from the top of Keriang Hill as if they stand there in real life. GPS: 6.191546, 100.326489 Contact No.: +6 04 735 1315 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keriang Hill Resort
IAT BIZ serves to promote and distribute local products by local entrepreneurs not only for the Malaysian market, but also for overseas. Through this mission, IAT BIZ acts a hub in gathering and marketing local products to provide opportunity to local entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. From local foods and cosmetics to handicraft products, travellers can obtain them all at IAT BIZ. GPS: 6.123621, 100.372381 Contact No.: +6 04 731 2701 Website: www.mada.gov.my/en/ entrepreneur/agro-based-industry/iat-biz
This three-storey building pays homage to paddy as one of the most important
Not far from the Paddy Museum, at the foot of Keriang Hill, lies an exclusive resort set up in an atmospheric tropical Malay village-style owned by the Tunku Temenggong of Kedah, Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz Sultan Abdul Halim, who is also a princess of Kedah and the daughter of the late Sultan Abdul Halim, famed for being the only Sultan in Malaysia who was extremely fortunate to assume the role as Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di-Pertuan Agong (His Majesty The King of Malaysia) twice in his lifetime, while other Sultans from various states in Malaysia so far had only assumed the role once. The resort boasts 15 luxurious villas built in traditional Malay vernacular, blessed with the stunning limestone hill as the backdrop. The resort’s Puteri Restaurant, located next to a small beautiful lake with a few royal swans in sight, serves local and Western fare. GPS: 6.189327, 100.327367 Contact No.: +6 04 730 5232 Website: kerianghill.com.my
Wau is a type of kite popular among Peninsular Malaysians; they are generally large and embellished with exquisitely intricate designs, usually sporting floral motifs. In the spirit of preserving the practice of kite-flying that has been done for generations, Kedah Wau Association made the effort in attracting the younger
generation to not only play wau, but also make it. According to the association’s president, Mr Mahyuddin, he is pleasantly surprised to receive an overwhelming response from the youngsters towards wau-making since the association was re-activated in 2009. In fact, the association has garnered multiple awards, chiefly among them obtained during the World Kite Festival from 2015 until 2017 at Pasir Gudang Johor, when they were announced as the overall champion. They also actively represent Malaysia at prestigious international kite festivals in Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.
Paddy harvesting demonstration by MNH Harvester at Kampung Pida 3
Paddy farmers of today utilise new technology that replace the crucial role of buffalos. They would normally use giant harvester machines to harvest paddy, making the process far easier and faster. Belonged to Mohd Nor Hamzah, MNH Harvester demonstrated how paddy is efficiently harvested, while the remaining paddy straws are collected using baler machine.
Mak Teh Gulai Temenung
Gulai Temenung actually refers to a type of a spicy dish consisting of mackerel cooked in curry-like gravy. Called as ikan kembung in other parts of Malaysia, locals in Kedah and Perlis refer to it as ikan temenung. Interestingly, temenung colloquially means ‘zoned out’. Thanks to its unique name, this eatery became viral on social media and turned popular among foodies near and far. However, it is the dish’s authentic and delicious taste that makes travellers come back for more. GPS: 6.257960, 100.197322 Contact No.: +6 017 740 7048
MARDI Agrotechnology Park Langkawi
More than just a centre for technology transfer and information dissemination related to agro-industry, this 35-hectare
land serves as one of the island’s main eco-tourism spots equipped with technology information centre, tropical fruit orchards, sheltered hi-tech vegetable farms and naturally conserved areas that are accessible for recreational purposes. When being here, be sure to taste the fresh-from-farm fruits such as starfruit, jackfruit, mango, and papaya! GPS: 6.361216, 99.792658 Contact No.: +6 04 953 2550 / 2551 Website: tatml.mardi.gov.my
Destini Akef Villa
The name of this property is aptly family-oriented – the word ‘Destini’ refers to the name of the owner, Tini, while ‘Akef ’ is derived from the first alphabets of the names of the owner’s children: Amar, Kimi, Elisha and Faiz. Destini Akef Villa is located close to Pantai Cenang and offers 40 airconditioned rooms that are categorised into four types: superior, deluxe, triplesharing and quad-sharing. Complete with complementary Wi-Fi, the hotel also has its own pool for guests to unwind and enjoy their time with their loved ones. GPS: 6.304916, 99.724262 Contact No.: +6 04 952 3809 Website: www.destiniakef.com
Langkawi Craft Complex
Considered as one of the main attractions in Langkawi, the complex is divided into 23 spaces such as Ceramic Crafts Retail, Batik Showroom, Teluk Yu Hall, Stingless Honey Bee Farm, Interactive Crafts, Themed Exhibition Area, Heritage Museum, Weddings Museum, Crystal (Glass Blowing) Studio and more. Langkawi Craft Complex is the place where travellers not only learn about local artisanal products and purchase handmade souvenirs, but also participate in educational activities like batik-colouring. GPS: 6.420547, 99.780366 Contact No.: +6 04 959 2340 /+6 04 959 1917 / +6 04 959 1844
Cruising around Langkawi with Sea Splash Cruise
Before we ended our agro-journey in Langkawi, we experienced sunset cruising with Sea Splash Cruise. The boat is originally designed as a fishing boat, but now modified to include comfortable and luxurious facilities to become a commercial boat to accommodate travellers. Guests can opt for services such as deep-sea fishing, snorkelling, diving, island-cruising or even custom-made trips. We departed from Telaga Harbour and passed by some of Langkawi’s gems such as the iconic Pulau Dayang Bunting. The journey was smooth; accompanied by a magazine and good music, the journey was remarkably relaxing and memorable. Oh, the sunset that evening was absolutely dazzling too! Website: www.seasplashlangkawi.com
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE IN PERLIS?
Harumanis Farm at Pertubuhan Peladang Kawasan Paya
Harumanis is a type of mango variety that is synomymous to Perlis, Malaysia’s smallest state. The name is derived from two Malay words: harum, which means fragrant, and manis, which means sweet. Living up to its name, Harumanis is not only famous in Perlis, but throughout Malaysia. This 1.1-hectare land that we visited is just one of the farms that produce Harumanis when in season, normally between April and June. However, due to continuous research and development, a group of Perlis farmers is optimistically planning to produce Harumanis offseason so that people may enjoy the fruit year-round. With support from its members, the Farmers’ Organisation Authority also produces products from Harumanis such as Harumanis juice and chips for commercial market.
Ladang Nipah Kipli
Located in Sanglang, Perlis, Ladang Nipah Kipli has as many as 2,000 palm trees that produce the sweet and
nutritious nira. To truly enjoy nira, travellers are recommended to imbibe it while savouring the famous Laksa Kuala Perlis (Kuala Perlis rice noodle dish laden in fish gravy) under small huts within the farm’s grounds. The cool atmosphere under the shades makes teatime experience at the farm perfect. GPS: 6.268863, 100.184969 Contact No.: +6 017 430 7708 Website: www.mada.gov.my/en/public/ agro-tourism/kipli-nipah-farm
Squid-jigging at Kuala Sungai Baru
Besides learning about the Northern Malaysian farmers’ life, I also experienced the life of the fishermen, which is definitely not easy. Together with the other participants of the trip, we stayed for hours above choppy waters in the middle of the night and I must say, since most of us were new to such activity, we had problems concentrating when we tried catching squid because we succumbed to motion sickness and grogginess. But when our catch for the night took the bait, we were ecstatic! Besides squid, our skilled guide even managed to catch a huge stingray! Travellers can experience fishing and squid-jigging by renting a boat (fit for four to five persons) from dusk until dawn at the price of MYR700. If travellers happen to visit outside squidjigging season that runs from April until August, they can try catching other types of fish because the surrounding waters is rich with marine life. Contact No.: +6 013 495 2199 (Amran)
Top: The interior of Macao Science Centre Bottom: One of the canals inside The Venetian Macao
A Bit of Everything in
M a c a o Te x t & I m a g e s b y M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J ELA N I
Though I much prefer sunbathing on the beach or trekking through the jungle because I do not consider urbanised environments as ideal getaway destination, Macao to me is interestingly exceptional. The East Asian city is widely dubbed as the Las Vegas of Asia but I found Macao more fascinating since literally has a bit of everything. From the replica of the great Roman Colosseum to the romantic canals and streets like the ones in Venice, including the copy of the iconic Eiffel Tower, it feels as if I am travelling the globe at one go. It seems that each and every traveller has their own version of Macao experience â€“ from the highly-anticipated annual Grand Prix to panda sanctuary and world-renowned heritage gems to some of the best modern architecture ever existed in this side of the world, it is fair to say that pulsating Macao is undisputedly, and rightfully, showy. WHAT TO VISIT?
Macao Science Centre www.msc.org.mo
Built on a 20,000-metre squared land, this educational attraction made up of Exhibition Centre, Planetarium and Convention Centre, making it suitable for families with children. At its Exhibition Centre, travellers can discover many permanent galleries covering topics such as technology, music, and nature, among others. In most parts, visitors can also get involved in several installed games. But the centreâ€™s highlight is its Planetarium, said to be the first planetarium in the world equipped with 3D and ultra-high definition system comprising 8,000 x 8,000 pixels that transports travellers across space and time as
they watch interactive live shows and educational movies under the giant dome! G Racing Simulator & Angry Birds Play Centre, Ponte 16 www.ponte16.com.mo/en/funandleisure/racing/
One of the most anticipated events in Macao is the Macao Grand Prix, which is in its 65th instalment in 2018. If you are a fan and dreaming of becoming a celebrated driver on the real track, you might want to try your luck on an alternative track: the virtual simulator at G Racing Simulator at Ponte 16, which is the one and only virtual F1 Racing in Macao that all travellers should experience! In the same building, younger travellers would be thrilled to find the Angry Birds Play Centre, opened in later part of 2018.
This tower is probably the best vantage point for travellers to see the whole of Macao. Opened since December 2001, Macao Tower stands at 228 metres tall with the viewing deck located on level 61 overlooking the entire city and the river that separates Macao from mainland Hong Kong. This deck is also designed for thrilling activities such as sky-walking, sky-jumping, bungee-jumping and tower-climbing. To note, the bungee jump here is the highest from a building in the world, costing MOP3,488 per person. For safer option, travellers can go to level 58 and vertiginously walk on its transparent glass-floor.
The sight of the half-sized replica of the iconic Eiffel Tower in the middle of Macao is unavoidable. What’s more, it is located on the Cotai Strip that is home to some of the best, world-class hotels and resorts in Macao. This replica of Eiffel Tower, which is open to the general public, is part of Parisian Macao Hotel Resort, inspired by the famed City of Lights. I managed to climb up to level 37 of the tower where I was greeted with the city view of Macao. As it is built in one of the most luxurious areas in town, the tower seems to be surrounded by ritzy hotels. I then took a walk inside Parisian Macao Hotel Resort, just to indulge in its stunning, flamboyant design. From the Palais Garnier-inspired gilded doors to the dome inside the Rotunda that is inspired from one of France’s most famous domed buildings L’Hotel National des Invalides, including the replica of the Fontaine de Mers just under the dome, there is so much to be awed here than shops selling worldclass brands.
Mount Fortress and Museum of Macau www.macaumuseum.gov.mo
Formerly Macao’s primary defence against pirates, this historic place also known as Fortaleza do Monte was built between 1617 and 1626 by a group of Jesuits. The fort stands 52 metres tall at Mount Hill, just a four-minute walk from the Ruins of St. Paul’s. On April 1998, after being converted into a weather observatory, it eventually turned into the Museum of Macau, significantly showcasing the four-century long history of the once Portuguese-colonised city. 106
Ruins of St. Paul’s No trip to Macao would be complete without a photo at this emblematic ruin of once one of the largest Catholic churches in Asia. The 17th century Portuguese church was burnt down during a typhoon in 1835, leaving behind the facade that was painstakingly carved with religious symbols and characters. Tip: This is arguably Macao’s most popular Instagram-worthy spot, so travellers need to contend with the crowd. However, if you wish to take a ‘just-me’ photo minus the crowd, then come to the Ruins of St. Paul as soon as the sun comes out.
Senado Square This neo-classic, paved town square is equipped with vibrantcoloured buildings, making it another photo-op station for travellers. The centre of attention would be the water fountain where a statue of a Portuguese soldier was originally placed but brought down by the Chinese because the soldier was responsible for the death of many Chinese soldiers. Today, besides being a venue for public events, this is also the spot where people usually hang out with their loved ones while visiting shops and making memories. Among other notable structures and streets around the area are Sam Kai Vui Kun (Kuan Tai Temple), Love Lane and Holy House of Mercy (Santa Casa da Misericórdia).
If you are into art and entertainment, then MGM Cotai suits you. This well-appointed jewellery-box-inspired building of MGM Cotai is a new installation of MGM property in China. Through integrated technology, MGM Cotai represents art and entertainment on a definite, grandiose scale. It has the Spectacle, the world’s largest indoor art garden with astonishing 25 giant LED screens covering four storeys showcasing digital artworks by world-class artists; MGM Theatre, Asia’s first dynamic theatre with resident shows; 300 pieces of contemporary art with the theme of bridging the East and West, tradition and technology, 28 of which are Chinese imperial carpets from the Qing Dynasty originally displayed at the Forbidden City, Beijing. It also has the largest permanent gallery of art collection in Macao. MGM Cotai is also home to several acclaimed restaurants by world-renowned chefs such as Mauro Colagreco, Mitsuharu Tsumura and Janice Wong, giving travellers one-of-a-kind culinary experience when being here. The Venetian Macao
Another hotel worth visiting other than to stay is The Venetian, arguably Macao’s most photographed and filmed location – it even appeared in Psy’s New Face music video, Hollywood’s Now You See Me 2 and the phenomenal K-drama entitled Boys Over Flower, to name a few. As the name suggests, this first integrated resort in Macao takes credit from its Italian-styled architecture besides
Clockwise from Top Left: The grounds of Macau Fisherman’s Wharf; the iconic Ruins of St. Paul’s; An immersive art installation at MGM Cotai
the world-class indoor mall that comes with canals bearing the names of San Luca, Marco Polo or Grand Canal where travellers may experience a romantic ride on a gondola. It also has some of the finest restaurants in town. Since the Venetian Macao is the largest single-structure hotel building in Asia and one of the largest buildings in the world, with such a huge crowd at any one time, one should be prepared in getting lost. Coloane Village If urban attractions are not your liking, head to Coloane Village instead. Usually, travellers will start their journey from a small shop named Lord Stow’s Bakery, the origin of the well-known Portuguese Egg Tart, a must-taste in Macao. While strolling along its esplanade, travellers will find peace as they walk pass its pastel-coloured houses and shops overlooking the famous Hac Sa beach. I also paid a visit to the 90-year-old Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, a monument that commemorates the local’s victory against pirates in 1910. Taipa Houses Museum Comprising five distinctive Portuguese-styled houses in green, this picturesque and lovingly restored complex once served as homes for Portugese high officials built in the 1920s. Now, each of these houses portrays displays
different exhibits such as “Macanese Living Museum”, the “Exhibitions Gallery”, the “Creative Casa”, the “Nostalgic House” and the “House for Reception”. Cunha Street Derived its name from a Portuguese explorer, Tristão da Cunha, this street is famous for travellers to buy souvenirs, mostly snacks such as almond cakes, coconut flakes and phoenix egg rolls. There are also several restaurants popular among locals. However, Muslims need to be careful as it is quite hard to find halal foods as souvenir. For halal and vegetarian alternative, head to Blissful Carrot vegetarian take-away shop (blissfulcarrot.com) located along Direita Carlos Eugenio Road and close to the steps leading up to Largo do Carmo. Giant Panda Pavilion
Prior to my visit, I have no idea that Macao is home to four giant pandas, specifically located on a hillside in Seac Pai Van Park, Coloane. It is heartwarming to see these adorable creatures playing with each other. The park also houses red pandas, monkeys, parrots, flamingos and deer.
This is Asia’s first leisure property that integrates television and film production facilities with gaming, retail and accommodations. This futuristic building looks even surreal with a gigantic Ferris wheel in the shape of the digit eight with 17 Steampunk-themed cabins hovering 130 metres up in the air, making it the highest Ferris wheel in the world! I also experienced the nerve-wrecking attraction called Batman Dark Flight, the world’s first DC Comic’s Batman 4D flight simulation ride. The journey, in brief, brings travellers to Gotham city on a Batplane with the mission of battling notorious criminals such as The Joker, Bane and Two-Face. The experience felt almost real!
Top: Posing in front of the gigantic Ferris wheel constructed in the shape of the digit ‘8’ on top of Studio City Macau Bottom: Portuguese egg tarts at Lord Stow’s Bakery
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE Macao Open Top Bus goldspark.com.hk
One of the most convenient ways to travel around Macao is by taking this service. At MOP150 (for adults) and MOP100 (for kids) per day, the bus brings travellers to 11 stops around Macao such as Macau Ferry Terminal, Macau Fisherman’s Wharf, Kun Lam Statue, Hotel Lisboa, New Yaohan, Macao Tower, A-Ma Temple, Galaxy Macau, Broadway Macau dan The Venetian Macao. The bus is also equipped with a guide so travellers can learn more about the places of interest in Macao.
WHERE TO EAT 2018 is Macao Year of Gastronomy that reflect the destination’s rich culinary offerings. From local stalls serving authentic Macanese snacks to Michelin-starred restaurants, Macao has so much to offer that travellers should savour. 1. Dong Lai Shun Muslim Restaurant (484, Rua Cidade de Coimbra) - A Beijing-styled hot pot restaurant, once recognised as China Time-Honoured Brands between 19301940. 2. Taste of India (www.toimacau.com) – The first restaurant in Macao that receives halal certification. It serves Indian cuisine besides Portuguese specialty. 3. Lou Lan Islam Restaurant (Rua do Teatro) – Xinjiang cuisine is slightly different than other parts in China as geographically, it is located near to Russia and Pakistan. And that is what served here. 4. Coast @ MGM Cotai (www.mgm.mo/en/cotai/dining/ coast) – It mainly showcases Californian cuisines by celebrity Chef Graham Elliott. 5. Golden Peacock @ The Venetian (www.venetianmacao. com/restaurants/signature/golden-peacock.html) – A halal, Michelin-starred restaurant worth trying serving exquisite dishes from India. 6. Tapas de Portugal (www.facebook.com/tapasdeportugal) – Located in Taipa, this restaurant specialises in Portuguese menu by Chef António Coelho, who also owns the Michelin-recommended restaurant, Antonio. WHERE TO SLEEP Legend Palace Hotel legendpalace.com.mo
This gilded property is a five-star deluxe hotel, one of the rarest of its kind in Macao. From the outside, it almost seems like a palace fit for a king. With state-of-the-art services and facilities, staying here is definitely memorable. Each room is assiduously equipped with modern technology, offering guests a splendid, ultra-comfortable experience.
Finding Anambas: A Newly Discovered Haven
109 Text by SHAHIDA SAKERI
I m a g e s b y D I N A S PA R I W I S ATA D A N KEB U DAYA A N KA B U PAT EN KEP U LAUA N ANAMBAS
Looking for a tropical paradise minus the big crowds? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the Anambas archipelago! The wonderful nation of Indonesia, which is made up of approximately 18,000 beautiful islands, offers innumerable paradise getaways. The likes of Bali, Lombok, Raja Ampat and Flores make constant appearances on travel websitesâ€™ lists of Indonesian dreamy islands, each with its own allure. Compared to the other already popular islands, the Anambas Islands Regency (Anambas for short), which consists of 255 islands blessed with unspoiled coral reefs, warm pristine waters and abundant marine life, has remained relatively unknown, until today.
Clockwise from top: Anambas Dive Resort offers all-inclusive diving trips including dive courses and DSD program for non-certified divers; Napoleon fishes are exported mainly to Hong Kong and may cost up to RM300 per kilogram, one can savour them at Dara Manis Cafe & Restaurant; dried seafood is the the common souvenir from Tanjung Pinang in which one may buy it at relatively low prices.
Spread across the expanse of the South China Sea, Anambas attracts avid scuba divers, snorkellers and sunworshippers who simply wish to unplug from the hectic urbanised world and be lullabied by the relaxing tropical island vibe. The islands within the Anambas archipelago are remarkably beautiful and unblemished, suitable for romantic honeymooners and outdoor-loving families, including budget-conscious backpackers.
Out of the said 255 islands, only 26 of them are inhabited with the largest ones being Jemaja, Palmatak and Siantan. The Anambas Islands Regency capital, Tarempa, is located on the island of Siantan, where travellers can find most of the affordable hotels and homestays, including auto-teller machines. Agriculture and fishing are the main industries here; the region also contains a large reserve of natural gas exported to Singapore and Malaysia, among other countries. For fearless divers, the Anambas archipelago has many spectacular dive sites with good visibility, especially those around the islands of Kiabu, Temiang, Semut, Mandau, Pahat, Durai and Renggek. Meanwhile, sun chasers who prefer to lounge blissfully under coconut trees and partake in light swimming should head to the uninhabited Penjalin island with its gorgeous luminescent blue lagoon and stretch of powdery soft sandy beach. Travellers should culminate their Anambas adventure by making a trip to Temburun Waterfall on Siantan island that greets them with beautiful and forceful cascades overlooking the stunning view of the ocean. Bawah Reserve is notably the archipelago’s most acclaimed resort and has been a constant favourite among the well-heeled across the globe. This resort makes a great first impression by striking a balance between Indonesian rusticity and contemporary sustainability-centric décor. Bawah Reserve seduces romantic types with its three glistening lagoons and 13 private beaches, including its all-inclusive packages comprising transport via seaplane, spa treatments, and slew of activities. Anambas Resort (approximately IDR270,000 per night), Anambas Dive Resort (approximately IDR2,000,000 per night including meals) and Kusuma Resort (IDR10,000,000 for four persons including meals) also offer more affordable yet no-less-remarkable bases. Reaching Anambas Archipelago From Johor Bahru International Ferry Terminal, travellers need to take a ferry to either Batam Centre (Batam) or Tanjung Pinang (Bintan). For more information on ferry schedules and rates, refer to www.berjayawaterfront.com. my/info/schedule. Wings Air (part of Lion Air group – browse http://lionair.co.id/ for more information) flies three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) from Batam to Letung (Anambas) starting on 10 August 2018, while Xpress Air (https://xpressair.co.id/) connects Tanjung Pinang to Matak (Anambas) with daily flights on weekdays. There are cars for hire available at Letung and
Matak airports that charges approximately IDR50,000 per person to bring travellers to the jetty where they will then take the boat to the desired islands within the Anambas archipelago. Alternatively, interested travellers may also contact the travel agencies below to arrange their trip to the Anambas islands: • Bagan Utama Holidays (www.gotour.my) • BT Tune Holidays & Services (bttuneholidays.blogspot.com) • Dialta Travel & Tours (dialtatravel.com) • East Coast Adventure Travel & Tours (www.eastcoasttour.com.my) • Overseas Tours & Travel Sdn Bhd (www.overseas.com.my) • JB B&J Diving Centre / Divejohor (www.divejohor.com) Venturing Out Should travellers make Tanjung Pinang, Bintan as their first port of embarkation, be sure to allocate extra days to visit some of the nearby attractions. The family-friendly glamping sanctuary, The Canopi (www.thecanopi.com), features 100 stylish tents with a huge 6.3 hectares of manmade lagoon filled with crystal clear salt water, where the young and the young at heart can indulge in a wide range of outdoor activities including ATV rides, cable ski, rodeo bull, water slide and airsoft gun games. The history and cultural buffs, on the other hand, should visit Penyengat Island, which once was a cultural capital of the Malay world, ruled by the Riau sultanate of Bugis descent. Expect to witness traces of the island’s glorious past, ranging from poetic signages to historical monuments such as the Grand Mosque of the Riau Sultanate, Balai Adat Indera Sakti (cultural hall) and Engku Putri Raja Hamidah Tombs Complex where revered historical figures such as Engku Putri Raja Hamidah (the wife of Sultan Mahmudsyah III) and Raja Ali Haji (Malay-Riau’s greatest scholar and poet who was famous for his Malay poetry Gurindam Dua Belas) are laid to rest. To reach the island, travellers need to board a pompong boat from Tanjung Pinang jetty that costs IDR7,000 per person each way. There are auto rickshaws for hire on the island at IDR30,000 for two persons to bring travellers to the attractions – feel free to ask questions to the riders about the island because they could double up as entertaining guides. Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to the Consulate General of Indonesia in Johor Bahru and Dinas Pariwisata dan Kebudayaan Kabupaten Kepulauan Anambas for making the writer’s trip to the Anambas islands smooth sailing.
CLUB MED x LACOSTE Golfing Experience in Club Med Bintan Te x t b y F I Q RI E DA H A RI I m a g e s b y C L U B M E D B I N TA N
Bintan? Is that in Malaysia?
That was the question I received from over a dozen people (my parents included) on my recent writing assignment for Gaya Travel Magazine. Fortunately, having lived in Singapore, I know exactly where the island is located (yup, it’s an island). And no, Bintan is NOT in Singapore… As part of Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to get to Bintan by ferry (depending on the weather) from Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, which is located around 15 minutes’ drive from Singapore Changi Airport. There is a shuttle bus service (www.changiairport.com/en/transport/ shuttle-services.html) that connects the airport to the ferry terminal, costing SGD2 per person one way. Little did I know that throughout all this time, there exists a getaway gem on Bintan called Club Med Bintan (www.clubmed.com.my), representing one of the 80 tranquil Club Med villages scattered across the world, with heritage that goes back to 1950 in Paris, France in offering premium allinclusive holiday experiences. The newly refurbished Club Med Bintan is also Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Award winner in 2017.
Providing what Club Med is well known for, which is premium ALL-INCLUSIVE resort experience (activities, drinks, meals / snacking and all-day bar), I was strongly impressed when I first set foot at Club Med Bintan, which is surrounded by a tropical island landscape that is truly breathtaking. As the usual case with Club Med, golf and tennis are popular choices among guests (affectionately called G.M., which means ‘Gentil Membre’), and they are normally facilitated by experienced Club Med employees known as G.O. (‘Gentil Organisateur’), who are also capable sports instructors. In almost 30 of Club Med’s 80 resorts around the world, golfing is marketed as one of the resorts’ key features. Besides, guests are also spoiled for choice when it comes to filling up their time when being at Club Med resorts since it also offers other activities such as badminton, yoga, pilates, tai chi, flying trapeze, archery, cross fitness, paddle boarding, water polo, kayaking and yachting, among others. Of course, the activities depend on which parts of the world you’re in and the kind of weather they offer. For guests seeking winter experience and snow-based activities, they can head to any of the 25 Club Med resorts located in Europe and Japan, all offer skiing and snowboarding lessons as part of its package, together with gears and snow wears, therefore guests do not need to purchase and bring their own. Back at Club Med Bintan, golf is the resort’s main forte. And what could be better for golfers than teeing off at Ria Bintan Golf Club (www. riabintan.com), which boasts an 18-hole golf course designed by the golf legend Gary Player. Club Med Bintan cleverly ties up with this golf club – which is the recipient of Asia Golf Awards 2017 as the best course in Indonesia and considered as one of the world’s best golf courses – for its guests’ golfing. Ria Bintan Golf Club also received certification from the Audubon International Classic for its environmental stewardship. In line with promoting memorable golfing experience among its guests, Club Med further brings it up to another notch by partnering with casual luxury brand LACOSTE since both French companies share the same passion towards sports and fostering esprit de corps. LACOSTE possesses strong heritage in sports
Clockwise from Top Left: Writer taking his first swing during the golf clinic in Ria Bintan Golf Club; Writer in the limited edition ‘45’ polo shir t by Club Med and Lacoste during the golf clinic in Ria Bintan Golf Club; Palm trees flanking a pathway in Club Med Bintan; A banner gracing the fairway at Ria Bintan Golf Club.
and athletics, having sponsored prestigious championships and tournaments such as the French Open. Dubbed CLUB MED x LACOSTE, the two renowned brands have specially created a capsule collection of polo shirts in the colours of the French flag: blue, white, and red. The limited edition collection is now sold at Club Med resorts and selected boutiques throughout Asia Pacific. On top of that, the public can also purchase Club Med’s signature ‘45’ T-shirts outside its resorts for the first time via www.lacoste.com. The number ‘45’ – which was initially featured on Club Med T-shirts for the brands 45th anniversary – is well loved by G.M.’s and G.O.’s. As such, Club Med issues new ‘45’ t-shirts created in trendy designs, colours, and fabrics to be distributed to all Club Med G.M’s and G.O’s. After spending three days and two nights at Club Med Bintan, I must say that I strongly recommend all avid golfers to stay at this remarkable resort, play golf at Ria Bintan Golf Club for world-class tee-off, and don CLUB MED x LACOSTE iconic t-shirts while playing the game for the chance to be immersed in wholesome and uplifting golfing experience with French flair at this side of the globe. After their golfing experience at Club Med Bintan, guests’ are bound to fall further in love with this sport, its heritage and sense of style, which the French excel… www.clubmed.com.my
One of the bays at Tanjung Aan
Laidback Lombok Te x t & I m a g e s b y J U H A N KA M A R U D D I N A N D S H A H I DA S A KERI
Located thirty-five kilometres east of Bali lies the island of Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara province, which is an accessible-yet-not-crowded piece of heaven, wooing travellers near and far to its gorgeous sandy beaches with luminous blue waters, majestic Mount Rinjani, unique local culture and crafts. For travellers who have only two to four days to get under Lombok’s skin, we recommend that they stay at Gili Trawangan, get acquainted with the Sasaks, and admire South Lombok’s breathtaking landscape. Gili Trawangan Note: Please check whether Gili Trawangan is already open to tourists before planning to go there
Of all tourism attractions in Lombok, the scattered gili (meaning small island in the native Sasak language) off coast Lombok main island like Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno arguably draw the biggest attention. Gili Trawangan is the most popular due to higher accommodation options and its lively scene, while Gili Meno tends to be quieter and serene, ideal for those who want peace. Gili Air, on the other hand, offers a mix of both action and tranquillity. During our recent trip to Lombok, Gaya Travel team managed to experience Gili Trawangan. affectionately known simply as ‘Gili T’.
Though Gili T is a party island to some degree because it hosts numerous holiday revellers, it remains loveable nonetheless because it is blessed with pristine nature and has no motorised vehicles. People and goods are normally transported using horse carts called cidomo. To explore the island, besides using the cidomo, travellers could simply do so by walking or bicycling. We were told that if travellers were to leisurely walk, it might take them two hours to cover the entire island. When visiting Lombok, be sure to stay at the popular Hotel Vila Ombak (www.vilaombak.com) on Gili Trawangan for a relaxing tropical island getaway, fabulous sunrise right in front of the hotel and funfilled snorkelling and even diving in the surrounding crystal clear waters. The hotel has its own dedicated jetty located at Kombal Bay on Lombok main island to quickly transfer guests directly to the hotel on Gili Trawangan via speedboat, taking only 10 to 15 minutes.
Note: Maybank and CIMB Niaga Bank auto-teller machine cardholders – including those of Bank BRI, Bank Mandiri, Bank BNI and Visa Plus-enabled cards – should not worry if they are out of cash when they are on Gili Trawangan because the said banks’ auto-teller machines are located just in front of Vila Ombak Hotel for convenient cash withdrawal.
Gaya Travel Magazine admires the straightforward and fuss-free design of the hotel’s spacious Deluxe Terrace Room that comes with modern amenities, especially the exceedingly large shower space. Those who prefer more unique stay experience should opt for the cosy two-storey Traditional Lumbung Hut, which has an architectural vernacular inspired from traditional Sasak pile-built rice barns in the shape of bonnets, with bedroom on the top floor and openair living area underneath. One of the highlights of the team’s trip to Lombok was the chance to catch the spectacular sunrise right from the beach that fronts Hotel Vila Ombak, which is highly recommend if weather permits. Once the sun is up, guests are welcome to loiter around Hotel Vila Ombak’s exceedingly lush grounds as a way to relax while waiting for the staff to begin serving breakfast at the hotel’s all-day dining Seahorse Restaurant. On top of that, afternoon tea is served daily for all guests at Hidden Pool Bar from 4:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Tip: Guests at Hotel Vila Ombak on Gili Trawangan must savour scrumptious dinner buffet served amidst romantic atmosphere on the beach prepared by D’Ombak Joglo restaurant, offering a perfect ending to travellers’ day.
Those who love snorkelling should not miss doing so when staying on Gili Trawangan because the surrounding waters are remarkably clear and teeming with marince life. Hotel Vila Ombak ‘s own concierge can arrange snorkelling trips and other activities. Besides snorkelling, scuba-divers would be happy to know that the hotel also has a fully accredited PADI five-star dive center called Vila Ombak Divers (vilaombakdivers.com). Those who instead prefer to only swim in the pool will be happy to know that the hotel has two swimming pools: the centrally located swimming pool in front of the Seahorse Restaurant that is suitable for all ages; and the adults-only and less conspicuous Hidden Pool situated further within the hotel’s premises. Each of the pools is equipped with a pool bar.
Note: Additional notes by Mohd. Shahril Fawzy Suhaili (www.pojiegraphy.com): When you snorkel or dive in the waters of Gili Meno in Lombok, you’ll not only see adorable marine creatures but also the excellent artworks comprising 48 human-figured sculptures by a renowned underwater sculptor named Jason de Caires Taylor. These sculptures are placed 13 feet under the surface and aimed at conserving the corals and providing home to various marine life while turning the spot into a popular landmark. Huge credit for this wonderful effort!
The Sasaks Once travellers return to Lombok main island, travellers should visit the Sasak cultural village called Ende in Central Lombok to learn about the Sasaks’ way of life and admire the village’s bucolic rusticity. The village comprises 37 households made up of 135 residents who are mostly involved in farming. Besides learning about the villagers’ daily life and taking pictures with them, be sure to also catch the thrilling demonstration of presean, an ancient duelling tradition involving sticks and shields performed by male adults and children, carried out during the time when the Sasaks were still animists (they are now Muslims). In the past, this tradition was held during drought because the act was believed to bring rain whenever those involved in the duel began to shed blood from the constant hit onto their body. The spilling of their blood onto the earth was considered as an appeasement to the spirits and mother nature. Additional notes from Ameen Azizul Aziz (www.instagram.com/ameen_azizul): The members of the Sasak community at Ende village still maintain their simple and earthy lifestyle, yet it is obvious that they are also used to receiving local and international tourists, which means that they can further suuplement their income and are well exposed to the outside world. Interestingly, these Sasaks make the base and floors of their houses not from concrete and cement but from compacted earth mixed with cow dung, while the walls are built from woven bamboo and thatched roof. The ceiling of the house is constructed low so that the inhabitants and their guests constantly bow their heads as a sign of deference towards the house. It takes approximately one month to build a Sasak traditional house.
Top: View from Bukit Merese; Bottom: Sunrise view from Vila Ombak Hotel on Gili Trawangan
Clockwise from Top Left: Pristine beach at Novotel Lombok Resort & Villas; A Sasak lady weaving fabric at Dharma Setya Weaving Centre; Snorkelling in the waters of Gili Meno; a Sasak boy at Ende village.
Another distinctive culture of the Sasaks is their marriage tradition. Unlike other communities, prenuptial kidnapping of the bride-to-be by the groom often takes place because historically the Sasaks consider marriage proposals disgraceful. A Sasak man who has the intention of settling down will ‘persuade’ the woman of his liking to follow him to his parents’ or relatives’ house, a custom called merarik in local language. The girl will then stay at the house for not more than three days while the man’s parents or representatives inform the village chief and visit the girl’s family to discuss the couple’s matrimony and negotiate dowry. Once mutual agreement has been reached, the wedding takes place soon after. Besides their unique tradition, the Sasaks are also famous for their weaving. Women are expected to learn how to weave since small because it is believed that they won’t be able to get hitched and provide for the family until they master this skill. There are many beautiful motifs introduced by the tribe such as Keker, Serat Penginang, Cunglik and Subahnala. The last motif, which is also the most popular one, derived its name from the Arabic word Subhanallah (‘Glory to Allah’). According to the story told by many, the women keep on chanting “subhanallah” when finishing the motif because it is too complex and takes too long of a time to make. Travellers can learn more about these motifs, weaving techniques and even shop for these woven handicrafts at Dharma Setya Weaving Centre (Facebook:Dharma Setya, Hand Woven and Handicrafts), located close to the weaving village of Sukarara. South Lombok Since Lombok is noted for its beaches, one of the places that travellers should explore is the southern side of Lombok, particularly Kuta Mandalika beach that is earmarked for development by the Indonesian government in turning it into Lombok’s special economic zone, similar to Bali’s Nusa Dua. More facilities such as locker area, changing rooms and toilets are under way and targetted to be completed by June 2018. Close to Kuta Mandalika beach, Novotel Lombok Resort & Villas (www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-0571-novotellombok-resort-villas/index.shtml) – opened since 1997 – is slated for better things to come, especially from the Kuta Mandalika beach development and the completion of the first ever MotoGP Circuit in Indonesia by 2020 located a stone’s throw away. Walking around the premises of the property made me feel like walking inside an indigenously exotic tropical village that marries local aesthetics with preColumbian Mesoamerican spatial sensibilities. Located around five kilometres east of Kuta Mandalika beach
is the two-kilometre long Tanjung Aan beach consisting of two bays with two types of sand with different colours: powdery white and salt-and-pepper. Travellers, especially lovers of panoramic landscapes, should then make way to Bukit Merese (Merese Hill), which is not far from Tanjung Aan – as a matter of fact, it offers an equally breathtaking view of the same bay where Tanjung Aan beach is located, including the Indian Ocean, but from a different angle. Be prepared to be mesmerised by the scenic panorama from both Tanjung Aan and Bukit Merese. Personally, I find both Tanjung Aan and Bukit Merese fascinatingly beautiful to the point that I think travellers shouldn’t consider themselves having been to Lombok if they do not visit both places. Tip: One plus point about Lombok that travellers should take advantage of is the fact that the island’s beautiful beaches are generally not crowded, except during school and public holidays, including peak seasons that fall on July until August and October until December. We reckon that March and April would be ideal time to visit.
Where to eat: • Roemah Langko – a restaurant set in a homely and nostalgia-inducing Dutch-influenced edifice in Mataram serving Lombok cuisine and seafood • Ayam Taliwang Irama – when in Lombok, travellers should try braving the island’s specialty dish called Ayam Taliwang, which is chilli-laden Indonesian grilled chicken. Interested travellers could contact Bagan Utama Holidays (www.gotour.my) to arrange their trip to Lombok. Gaya Travel Magazine extends our heartfelt gratitude to the Republic of Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism, the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Kuala Lumpur and the Consulate General of Indonesia in Johor Bahru for making the writer’s trip to Lombok a reality.
Hotels & Resorts
The Nest House,
Thoughtful, Tasteful and Joyful Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI Images by THE NEST HOUSE, MELAKA
Have you ever been to a place that makes your heart sing just by being there? I have, and it was at The Nest House, Melaka. Like a little bird who returns to its safe haven, I felt an instant shower of happiness and sense of belonging as soon as I stepped into the beautifully-decorated guesthouse, as if I was returning to my very own sweet home while in truth, it was actually my first time staying there. Well, The Nest House does this to you… 122
This gorgeous 10-room hideout is a brainchild of Mr. Tong Chye Kiam, a friendly insurance agent cum fist-time guesthouse owner, who stumbled into an old abandoned residence with a perfect location in Bandar Hilir, Melaka. Call it gut instinct or professional intuition after years of conducting critical assessments in his field, Mr. Tong simply knew that the property is too good to be left abandoned. Hence, he bought it and then engaged a local architect, Fern from Basique Studio, to give the old residence a new lease of life. The interiors, meanwhile, were done by Melanie Bayoud of Embee Designs, who is an Australian artist based in Kuala Lumpur. Interestingly, Melanie used to be a trained nurse, who specialised in psychiatry and postnatal depression. After hanging up her scrubs for good, she now holds art classes and art therapy sessions that strive to make people
experience joy – I’d like to think that she is also the reason behind the immediate calmness I was feeling when being at the property. With whitewashed walls and a beautiful jasmine tree in the small courtyard, The Nest House exudes an air of calm and tranquillity. The living room, which also functions as the reception area, has a laidback and relaxed feel. The smattering of a few carefully chosen ornaments and unique pieces of furniture from Harry Rogers Living and Cut Deco also suggest that everything had been carefully curated and sourced. I especially love the building-high ventilation block feature walls that let breeze flow freely into the property; they also work as awe-inspiring Instagram-worthy background, too! Besides, there’s always something soothing – almost magical even – to witness the beautiful shafts of light reaching into the building through the holes of these blocks during dusk and dawn.
Besides the block feature walls, the guesthouse is smart because it is cladded with eco-friendly heat reflective glasses to cope with the South East Asian sunlight and heat, ensuring the interiors of the guesthouse remain cool and cosy. There are also rows and rows of mosquito-repelling plants adorning the foot of the tall windows to curb the uninvited insects from swarming into the house, guaranteeing guests’ comfort. A bare wall that reveals the original texture of the building stands behind the reception desk, while photos of the components of the old house are hung on a few corners to pay tribute to the building’s history, adding another layer of intrigue to the establishment’s contemporary atmosphere. Moreover, here in The Nest House, no two rooms are the same. Each room is individually designed, but all are perfectly proportioned
and aesthetically pleasing. My room is a vision of white with concrete flooring, a supremely comfortable bed with high linen thread count and a colourful selfie wall that works doubles as an open closet. The bare ceiling gives the room character, and the tall expansive windows keep the room naturally bright and airy, allowing me sufficient fresh air to breathe in deeply. Melanie does a great job in applying a harmonious blend of natural materials and contemporary artful pieces crafted by her and her friends to make the space feel elegant, uncluttered and remarkably homely; I was honestly inspired by the decor that I’m thinking of recreating some of those design elements at my own home. Even the headboard is cleverly fashioned so that guests can place their items such as books or gadgets close to them when they are in bed. The tiled bathroom that is scented with actual pandan leaves, flat-screen TV, hairdryer, well-located plug points, heavenly fluffy towels and strong Wi-Fi complete the picture. Forget conventional amenities — there’s no gym and swimming pool at The Nest House. Nor is there a helipad. However, there is a 24-hour pantry that is stocked with complimentary snacks and tea- and coffee-making facility that guests can treat themselves to whenever they feel like it, just like at home. Guests also may hang out at the rooftop to catch the sunset or simply admire the surrounding built environment. Tucked away in one of the hidden lanes in Bandar Hilir, The Nest House offers peace without having to be far away from the action. It only takes five minutes of walking to reach Dataran Pahlawan, and 10 minutes to the popular Jonker Street where travellers can find museums, artisan shops and Jonker 88, which serves among the most refreshing cendol I’ve ever had in my life. The guesthouse is also a stone’s throw away from A Famosa and Sam Po Kong Temple, surrounded by various eateries like Restaurant Nyonya Makko and reflexology centres for travellers to rejuvenate their feet after a long day. In conclusion, staying at The Nest House is likened to renting a little piece of real estate amidst a living and breathing local neighbourhood, a nod to living in a home away from home. The guesthouse is filled with relaxed confidence, sophisticated simplicity and deep commitment to nostalgia, all often overlooked by many developers, but deeply appreciated by the guests. Be sure to check out Nest House during your next visit to Melaka. The rates at The Nest House Melaka starts at MYR158 on weekdays and MYR188 on weekends. The rates may vary on public holidays. nesthouse.com.my
Gaya Special Feature: Vivanta by TAJ
Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi A paradise within a paradise Have you ever wanted to discover a tucked-away, naturally tropical and picture-perfect paradise? Then imagine a solitary resort on the privately owned 390-acre Rebak Island, one of the 99 isles that make up the legendary Langkawi. Envisage plunging into luxury with your loved one, miles away from the bustle of city life. Indulge in a romantic holiday to colour your memories beyond imagination, forever. Surrender to the enigma of the accommodation rooms too, shaded by the palm trees overlooking the Senari Straits. All this and more, at the Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi, a resort managed by the world-renowned Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, marking the group’s first foray into South East Asia. Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi, with a fully equipped marina, is a twenty-minute ground transfer from Langkawi International airport to Port Cenang, followed by another seven-minute boat transfer to Rebak Island. The landscape designed by the internationally acclaimed tropical landscape designer, Made Wijaya, affords guests the view of the Senari Straits from the freshly appointed rooms. Master touches on the resort’s rooms, restaurant, bar and many other facilities have also been added. The rooms – with wooden flooring and contemporary interiors – portray a Malaysian dwelling. The private balconies in most of the rooms provide cosy little spaces for guests to indulge in conversations of sweet nothings against the breathtaking backdrop of varying species of tropical flora and fauna. Catering to the various moods and moments, Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi, offers several dining options. Senari, the all-day dining restaurant, offers a variety of Malaysian, Indian and Continental fare and a fine selection of spirits, while the enchanting Boardwalk plays host to banquets and thematic
events. At the contemporary bar Minum Minum, which in Malay language means ‘lets drink’, guests should imbibe the bar’s flavoured Caipiroska and mojitos, which are both signatures. ‘Just-for-two-under-the-stars’ dinner can also be arranged by the Senari straits, where tides change and memories linger. Lepak Bar is a spot facing the Senari straits where one can unwind with spirits on the beach, while the Moon Deck Cabana overlooking the Andaman Sea invites guests to experience romantic finedining over a choice selection of cuisines prepared by Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi’s culinary team and served by a dedicated butler. An idyllic destination for a perfect honeymoon, Rebak Island Resort offers an exotic balance between diversity, activity, and exclusivity. Glorious sunshine, deep azure water and breathtaking flora weave enchanting memories. Guests who are outdoorsy are welcome to opt for stimulating escapades such as sunset cruises, deep sea fishing, snorkelling and scuba-diving, indulging in private boat trips, caves explorations, Langkawi Island tours or even island-hopping. What’s more, Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi’s Resident Naturalist also accompanies guests on mangrove discovery tours! On top of that, Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi can also arrange adventures, treks, nature trails and camping for the whole family; kayaking or biking, beach volleyball, tennis or archery; and even water sports such as parasailing, jet-skiing and banana boat rides. Culinary buffs will be thrilled to witness and participate in Malaysian cuisine demonstrations that can be held upon request. Alternatively, guests are invited to simply laze by the swimming pool or indulge in rejuvenating spa treatments at the upgraded Ulik Mayang Spa, with the option of having a massage at The Cabana overlooking the Andaman Sea. Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island Langkawi is indeed a paradise within a paradise whereby sophisticated travellers should never miss and must experience at least once in their lifetime…
Visit vivanta.tajhotels.com/en-in/rebak-island-langkawi/ for further information.
Our UNIQUE features: We are the only 5 STAR resort on an island - off Langkawi: 1. Managed by The Taj Group of Hotels - a century old tradition in hospitality 2. Located on its own 390 acre enchanting private island 3. Exotic Rebak motif experiences 4. Complimentary internet & daily in house activities 5. The only fully equipped Marina in Malaysia
Hotels & Resorts
First International Hotel in the hear t of Chow Kit T e x t b y N U R S Y A Z WA N I R O S L A N | I m a g e s b y H I LT O N GARDEN INN KUALA LUMPUR
When travellers choose the perfect accommodation during their trips, more often than not it would be based on its location and whether the room rate is reasonable. On top of that, other factors such as being near to public transport and street food are also important. If those are the attributes you seek, then Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur – the first Hilton Garden Inn in Malaysia – is definitely one the best places to stay in the city because it fits the bill perfectly. Hilton Garden Inn is a world-renowned brand that comes in the form of mid-priced, focused service accommodation, ideal for travellers seeking world-class hospitality, comfort and quality at affordable prices. “Guided by Hilton’s mission to be the most hospitable company in the world – by creating heartfelt experiences for guests and delivering exceptional experiences – at every hotel to every guest and at every time, we are committed to expanding the offerings of the Hilton brand portfolio in Malaysia and throughout the region,” says Hilton Malaysia Regional General Manager Jamie Mead regarding the opening of Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur. This contemporary urban and affordable hotel is located along the bustling Chow Kit Road. The opening of Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur marks the first international hotel chain to open right smack in the middle of multicultural Chow Kit neighbourhood that buzzes with trading and wholesaling activities. Chow Kit is one of the places in Kuala Lumpur that brims with authentic grassroot experience that excite intrepid travellers along the likes of Kampung Baru, Petaling Street and Brickfields, which are all accessible from the hotel. Apart from being in close proximity to Kuala Lumpur’s old-world charms that can be found around
Dataran Merdeka and Leboh Pasar Besar areas, guests who stay at the hotel can easily reach the city’s more modern attractions too, ranging from eco forest walks and night markets to art galleries, shopping centres, museums and bird park. Business and government districts are within 10-minute radius by vehicle. It is also a stone’s throw away from Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) and Malaysia International Trade & Exhibition Centre (MITEC), two of Kuala Lumpur’s leading conference venues ideal for large scale events, and a 65-minute drive from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Low-down on Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur: • • • • •
Five minutes’ walk from monorail station 265 efficient rooms, all with Crabtree & Evelyn complimentary toiletries and some with views of the iconic Petronas Twin Tower 24-hour pantry for snacks Fitness centre, self-service laundry and complimentary Wi-Fi Extensive children’s amenities list – please request 24 hours before arrival
Why do we love the property? The main thing about the hotel is its enviable location. Though it is surrounded by the hustle, bustle and congestion right in the middle of the city, the hotel is incredibly accessible to Kuala Lumpur’s famous landmarks such as the colourful Chow Kit Market and the gleaming KLCC. To explore more of the city while using the hotel as the base, guests are recommended to contact the Front Desk for useful tips on how to make the best of their time in Kuala Lumpur. Starting from the average of 25 metres squared (270 square feet) for a Queen Guest Room with KLCC view to 36 metres squared (388 square feet) Twin Deluxe Room, Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur offers 265 contemporary and stylish guestrooms with either one queen or two twin beds decorated in warm and inviting tones, allowing guests a restful space with modern amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, 40-inch TV with satellite channels, a mini-fridge and tea/coffee facilities. The Hilton Garden Inn bed provides the perfect balance between comfort and support as well. The rooms are minimally decorated with modern furniture. The décor of the room is kept pared-down and minimalistic with a touch of floral-designed wallpaper on a feature wall to indicate finesse. The view from the window opens up to either the city or the iconic Petronas Twin Towers that can be seen easily when guests wake up, get out of the bed and pull up the blinds. Another plus point when staying at Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur is the fact that guests are provided with the popular Crabtree & Evelyn verbena and lavender complimentary toiletries for freshening up. Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur also offers abundance of amenities to help make guests’ stay more convenient and efficient such as the compact 24-hour fitness centre, 24-hour self-service guest laundry, 24-hour business centre with complimentary printing facilities, including storybooks, cots and bath tubs for infants and children. As with most international hotels, guests are provided with high speed complimentary Wi-Fi access throughout the premises for fast browsing and settling urgent office work. Feeling hungry after gym or work? Then guests may proceed to the all-day dining Garden Grille restaurant on ground floor that offers hearty dishes or indulge within the comfort of their rooms by opting for the evening room service that runs from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. The selection of breakfast varies through the different dishes served. If that’s not enough, guests can head to the 24-hour Pavilion Pantry™ that offers various snacks, drinks, instant meals and travel essentials.
Who should stay here? This hotel is for leisure travellers seeking comfort and ease of transport while strategically located at the heart of Kuala Lumpur, as well as business travellers demanding international-level hospitality. Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur participates in Hilton Honors, the only hotel loyalty programme that allows members to earn Points & Miles during the same stay, without any blackout dates on rewards stays. To celebrate the hotel’s opening, Honor members receive 1,000 bonus points per night, with a maximum stay of five nights, for stays between 1 January and 30 June 2018. The Hilton Garden Inn Kuala Lumpur 449, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman 50100 Kuala Lumpur T: +6 03 2172 6888 www.hgi.com
Hotels & Resorts
Petaling Jaya: The Game-Changer Te x t b y J U H A N KA M A R U D D I N I m a g e s b y S H E R AT O N P E TA L I N G J A Y A
Sheraton Petaling Jaya – a five-star 253-key hotel that is part of Marriott International’s stable of global brands – is a definite game-changer in the Petaling Jaya (PJ) hospitality scene, the latest international chain to open in the neighbourhood. Situated 20 minutes’ drive from Kuala Lumpur city centre and right smack in the middle of Petaling Jaya (PJ) central business district next to the Federal Highway that connects Kuala Lumpur to satellite cities like PJ, Subang Jaya, Shah Alam and Klang along the Klang Valley conurbation, the hotel is enviably accessible. Being right next to the Asia Jaya station that is part of RapidKL light rail transit (LRT) system’s Kelana Jaya line also proves a blessing for guests who want to conveniently explore more of Klang Valley using public transport. Additionally, the hotel is only a 45 minutes’ drive from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Sheraton is a mid-tier, no-nonsensical five-star brand that have stood the test of time. It represents an amalgam of stature, class, warmth and homeliness; guests could easily notice this from the tasteful use of marble, wood, brass and chandeliers as they step into Sheraton Petaling Jaya. Though the hotel sports contemporary Western-style interiors, its floor-to-ceiling windows that generously let in the views of surrounding Petaling Jaya neighbourhood together with subtle decorative pieces inspired from local scenes and motifs constantly remind guests that they are currently in Klang Valley and Malaysia. General Manager Mr Christopher Moore mentions half-jokingly that Sheraton Petaling Jaya is the most recently updated version of “your grandfather’s hotel”, which therein lies the charm: the brand can be likened to an established debonair-looking gentleman who has
endured the ages hence wiser, astute, patriarchal and suave; we view Sheraton of today as a brand that is reassuring, reliable, offers emotional security, in a league of its own and has no need to pursue the latest fashion or trends. It is a brand that has confidently come of age (it is now 85 years old) and is set in its own ways and style yet embraces the spirit and state-of-the-art technologies of the times. Mr Moore further explains that the typical Sheraton clientele has a certain level of expectation when they step into a Sheraton property anywhere in the world – Sheraton Petaling Jaya included – thus setting the benchmark. “The brand encourages the staff to find ways to delight guests and help create memorable moments that make guests want to return,” he adds.
Well appointed rooms and facilities
All rooms at Sheraton Petaling Jaya are equipped with Sheraton Signature Sleep Experience® bed and bedding system to ensure that guests obtain a deep and restful slumber; liquid-crystal-display television set; spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower; specially created Le Grand Bain bath amenities by spa product pioneer Byredo for a heightened bath experience; and typical but upscale modern conveniences. It is highly recommended that guests stay in one of the rooms on levels 27 through 30, which offers access to the well-thought-out and spanking 300-metre squared Sheraton Club Lounge on Level 31 that is bright and spacious due to the venue’s double-height floor-to-ceiling windows, especially during breakfast when guests can begin their day refuelling in exclusivity. Though the number of dishes served at Sheraton Club Lounge during breakfast are limited, they are no less scrumptious, especially the delicious chicken murtabak (local pan-fried bread layered with omelette and meat). It almost goes without saying that guests should use their time at the hotel appreciating the uninterrupted view of the surrounding PJ neighbourhood that flank the Federal Highway, as well as the iconic Kuala Lumpur skyline in the distance, among other things. The hotel’s vantage position allows guests to watch the sun enchantingly rises above the mist-covered KL skyline in the morning from level 33, where the hotel’s infinity pool and the sexy ala Latin American-vibe Sala Bar are also located. Spanning two floors, Sala Bar has a dedicated elevator for wheelchair-bound guests to reach the upper floor, which is an enclosed space that can hold up to 60 persons, useful for intimate gatherings and functions. Guests who are into health and fitness can head to the hotel’s nifty 24-hour fitness centre, also on level 33, which lets in the PJ panorama on one side and the picturesque Kuala Lumpur skyline on the other, also through its double height floor-toceiling windows. A caveat, though: the captivating scenery might pleasantly distract guests from focussing on their workout, which precisely what happens to me every time I try to sweat it out at the fitness centre… Other facilities at Sheraton Petaling Jaya include 13 conference rooms that let in ample natural light to ensure that guests remain spirited, and a 1,500-metre squared Grand Ballroom with oversized lift that can fit an automobile for ease of bumping in and out, ideal for corporate meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) purposes. Notable dining options There seems to be a wide range of options when it comes to dining at Sheraton Petaling Jaya. For a start, guests should head to the hotel’s cheery all-day dining outlet Feast on
level 3 to savour its enticing spread during breakfast, lunch or dinner, especially the decadent items displayed on the desserts rack. Feast also offers international ala carte options and authentic Asian fare fastidiously prepared by adroit chefs at the live cooking stations. Must-try signature dishes include local noodles such as wok-fried yellow mee mamak and Penang-style char kway teow. Due to its impressive buffet spreads, Feast is fast becoming popular as a family-gathering place among the well-to-do, especially during weekends. Guests who seek more rewarding dining experience can make way to the hotel’s two fine-dining outlets: Miyabi for customary Japanese specialities and Yue for refined Cantonese cuisine. Miyabi is a smart Zen-like space that is popular especially during lunch time on weekdays due to the outlet’s reasonably priced set meal, thus prior reservation is required because Miyabi’s portions are generous and the flavours are gratifying. Alternatively, guests are welcome to experience the outlet’s signature ala carte offerings for dinner such as the invigorating watarari-kari unagi harumaki (eel rolls) for appetiser and the succulently grilled wagyu steak or the flavourful grilled skewered spicy salmon with lemongrass as the main dish. Wine connoisseurs will also be thrilled to know that the outlet serves the covetous Japanese artisanal rice wine, Zaku Miyabi No Tomo Junmai Gimjo. According to the convivial Japanese Chef Png Say Keong, who is affectionately called Chef Dino, Miyabi invites customers’ honest feedback regarding the dishes and is open to preparing dishes according to customers’ own palate and taste as per request, even though the outlet already has a set menu. On the same note, dining at the evocative Yue transports diners on a gastronomic journey that would impress even the pickiest of gourmands. Guests are recommended to opt for the outlet’s signature dishes that can be presented in courses, for example the savoury, nutty and nourishing Chef ’s doubleboiled Chinese herbal soup containing scallop and abalone served in a teapot as starter; lip-smacking baked cod fish topped with wasabi and Chef ’s special spicy sauce as main course; and culminate with the delightful chilled avocado pudding with citrus lemongrass sauce topped with vanilla ice cream that blends into a harmonious whole, giving off a nottoo-sweet yet refreshing and palate-cleansing sensation that hits the right spots. As for afternoon tea, guests should make way to the exquisite Link@Sheraton Café for rich and flavourful snacks presented on three-tiered serving platter paired with tea or coffee of choice set amidst graceful and updated neoclassical-inspired salon-style décor, suitable for business and social catch-up. Conclusion Sheraton Petaling Jaya is indeed a strategically located, upmarket, gleaming hotel backed up by a strong heritage that is appreciated not just among the matured set of travellers
but also the younger generation who seek timeless quality, reliable service and fuss-free accommodation minus the fads, with stimulating food and beverage offerings that never fail to delight gastronomes. This hotel is fast becoming a property that is to be reckoned with not just in PJ, but the whole of Klang Valley.
Must-Do’s when staying at Sheraton Petaling Jaya: • Check into the Club Rooms on levels 27 until 30 to access the swanky Sheraton Club Lounge on level 31, which offers captivating and uninterrupted views of the surrounding Petaling Jaya neighbourhood and Kuala Lumpur skyline in the distance. The Lounge also offers free-flowing snacks and beverages throughout the day, including exclusive breakfast buffet spread in the mornings from 6:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. • Wake up early to watch the sun enchantingly rises above mist-covered Kuala Lumpur (KL) city from level 33, then jump into the open-air infinity pool also on the same level for a refreshing dip. • Work out at the hotel’s 24-hour fitness centre that healthily receives ample natural daylight, especially during sunrise. • Use RapidKL’s light rail transit (LRT) system to explore and understand Klang Valley in a more intimate and personal way by embarking from the Asia Jaya station across the street from the hotel. • Indulge in an afternoon tea at Link@Sheraton Cafe by ordering the three-tiered serving platter filled with rich and flavourful snacks paired with tea or coffee. • Enjoy the delectable desserts served during lunch or dinner buffet in the midst of a streamlined, contemporary setting at Sheraton Petaling Jaya’s all-day dining outlet Feast on level 3. • Have dinner at the fine-dining outlets Miyabi ( Japanese cuisine) and Yue (Cantonese cuisine) to try out signature dishes such as Miyabi’s grilled skewered spicy salmon with lemongrass and Yue’s baked cod fish topped with wasabi and Chef ’s special spicy sauce, including chilled avocado pudding with citrus lemongrass sauce for dessert. • Unwind al fresco at Sala Bar late into the night to take in the night view of Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur while imbibing your beverage of choice.
Te x t & I m a g e b y Z A H A R I Z K H U Z A I M A H w w w. z a h a r i z . c o m
Zahariz in his own words .... I’m Zahariz, an adventurer from Malaysia and a documentary filmmaker/ photographer concentrating on adventure travel. I’ve travelled half the world mostly on bicycle covering over 30,000 kilometres for the past 8 years. I crossed China twice on a bicycle, first in 2010 starting from Chengdu in Sichuan Province all the way to the border of Russia in northern Kazakhstan. In early 2014, I crossed China again, this time from east to west, from Mongolia to Kyrgyzstan. Another major solo expedition was crossing the Arctic for 11 months, from Iceland to Norway on bicycle. Besides travelling by bicycle, I also did a solo journey crossing the Finnish Lapland by forest skiing from Finland to Norway in winter 2014. A month later, I continued my solo skiing journey crossing the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. In late 2015, I again crossed the mountains of Kyrgyzstan with my horses from China border all the way south near the border of Tajikistan. My latest solo journey on a bicycle was in 2016 where I crossed the Himalayas starting from the Tibetan Mountains in Bhutan all the way to Annapurna Mountains in Nepal. Currently, I’m doing something new and unfamiliar, which is to explore the Pacific region, travelling slowly through water from Borneo all the way to French Polynesia.
Zahariz on Travels . My favourite destination(s): Lofoten Island, Norway . My dream destination(s): Patagonia, Argentina . My must-have(s) in the carry-on: Cigarette and camera . My worst nightmare during travel: Dealing with police . My favourite Malaysian spot(s): My apartment . My best meal taken in Malaysia: Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang . Malaysia is special because… it is my home, the place where I grew up, where I can speak my own mother tongue and eat my most familiar and favourite food. In my opinion, Malaysians are among the most friendliest and laidback people. . Solo or group travel? Solo travel . Aisle or window seat? Aisle . See it all or take it easy? Take it easy. . I travel for…as much experience as I can while I’m still alive. Staying in one place and accumulate material wealth and living the normal predictable life is a waste of time. Being alive means accumulating new experiences all the time, doing
unfamiliar things, exploring unfamiliar places, not knowing when is our last moment, always questioning and searching for answers, always in awe about how amazing and mysterious is the existence itself.
Zahariz in 30 seconds . Night owl or early-riser? Early riser . Back to nature or city slicker? Back to nature . One book everyone should read? Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari) . What is the last thing you Googled? Tips to get subscribers on YouTube . What’s on your playlist right now? Hans Zimmer soundtracks . What is the moment you’re most proud? When I cycled out of the airport in Iceland and started to see the amazing volcanic scenery right away . What’s your biggest pet peeve? A very quiet person . Whose brain would you like to have had? Sebastian Montaz . Life is too short to...spend years in universities completing Masters or PhD