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VISIT ASIA's FIRST UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK


Welcome To The Best Tropical Karst Island In The World

LanGSIR CAVE, Langkawi


Pulau Rawa

MERSING

UNEARTH THE JEWEL OF THE SOUTH


PulauPONTIAN Kukup

UNEARTH THE JEWEL OF THE SOUTH


Gaya Special Feature: Kelantan

L E T ’ S

E X P L O R E

the extraordinar y K E L A N T A N

Kelantan is the perfect epitome for future-proof tourism as it is a time capsule that keeps its centuries-old heritage well-preserved. The Kelantanese emphasise on the durability of their local culture and nature, hence they welcome visitors from all over the globe to see for themselves the unique traditions available in the state. Now is the time for you to meet the local people and immerse in authentic culture by discovering the homestays, villages and communities in Kelantan.


Pulau Suri Floating Market Many are still unaware of the existence of floating markets in Malaysia. Travellers now do not need to go through the hassle and spend extra money and travel to neighbouring countries just to witness such markets. In 2016, Pulau Suri opened to the public and instantly recognised as the first floating market in the country. Located on a small island in Tumpat district, Pulau Suri can only be reached by canoes and boats operated by locals. The boat rides from Kuala Besar and Kok Majid jetties take around 15 minutes to 40 minutes to reach the island. Along the journey, you can sit back and relax while enjoying the river’s gentle breeze and picturesque sceneries of Kelantanese fishing villages. Once on the island, you will find yourself in an exuberant ambience that beckons you to start shopping for Kelantanese delicacies and handicrafts. The sellers here peddle a wide range of popular traditional food and beverages such as kerabu nipah, lokan bakar, ketupat sotong, traditional kuih, coconut jelly and nasi kerabu. While feasting on delectable meals with family and friends, you may also entertain yourself with traditional music or cultural performances performed by the locals such as dikir barat and kertok. Then, if you fancy more shopping, you should head to the handicraft vendors that sell baju kaftan, shawls, scarves, batik, keychains and paintings, including souvenirs for your comrades back at home. Later, imagine yourself living like one of Pulau Suri’s villagers by engaging in fun-filled activities such as coconut-picking monkeys, making charcoal from coconut shells, painting batik and building fishing boats. Min House Camp Min House Camp is a nature retreat situated along Pengkalan Datu river, a perfect spot for those who need to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Surrounded by tall trees and a small tidal estuary at its front, this homestay is free from air pollution and offers you pristine natural air that instantly gives you a sense of serenity. Every guest is promised a perfectly splendid time discovering different species of flora and fauna while getting busy with all sorts of adventurous activities like archery, kayaking, river-bathing, fishing and clam-digging. This back-to-nature retreat is a great way for you to unwind and rest your overactive minds.

As you walk around the homestay, you can find a bee and guppy farm, including a mini petting zoo filled with chicken, ducks and geese, all suitable for children who love to spend quality time feeding and bonding with these animals. The main highlight of Min House Camp is getting on a night boat ride or kayak to watch fireflies flickering by the riverside. Fireflies normally can be found near water and the darkness of the night allows them to produce bioluminescence that emit enchanting glimmer of lights. When staying at Min House Camp, you are encouraged to learn about how the residents of Kampung Pulau live by joining a village tour or a night walk guided by one of the homestay’s staff. The villagers here greet you with open arms because they are ecstatic when tourists come all the way to experience their culture. Feel free to ask any question as the villagers are all friendly and helpful. During the village tour, you will be brought to fruit orchards, vegetable gardens and, if you are lucky, catch a monkey that help to pluck coconuts for you to drink. After an exhilarating adventure exploring the beauty of Kampung Pulau, it is time for you to loosen up by having a body massage or even enjoy delicious Kelantanese cuisine at Anjung Selera. You can satisfy your taste buds and hunger by savouring roti canai, nasi ulam, patin tempoyak, ikan keli bakar, tilapia goreng, laksa and laksam. Other than that, you may learn to cook scrumptious traditional Kelantanese dishes, make your own handicrafts, play traditional games or watch cultural performances such as the wayang kulit too. The homestay’s management promises a highly personalised, supportive, and attentive service so that your stay will be meaningful. Singgora Homestay Singgora is vital in the construction of the roof of a Kelantan Malay traditional structure. Singgora roof tiles, made of clay, does not only protect the building but also symbolises racial identity. It is one of Kelantan’s well-preserved architectural elements that carries the state’s heritage in its design. The roof ’s cultural symbol and aesthetic value are the attributes that drive Encik Mohamed bin Salleh, a civil engineer, to start the Singgora homestay business. His burning passion in architecture and impeccable craftsmanship in building Kelantan traditional houses have successfully captured the attention of the locals, heritage lovers, photographers and travellers from outside the state. Located in Kampung Air Deras, Pasir Hor, you can feel what it is like

to live in a tranquil village within Kota Bharu city limit. Upon reaching the homestay’s wooden gate, you will definitely be awed by the intricate architectural beauty of its façade, which were all built using the combination of chengal, teak, and yellow wood that are over a century old. Singgora homestay offers three different types of rooms that are furnished with comfortable double beds and ceiling fans. Each room has en-suite bathroom although some guests may want to try bathing at the 100-year old well water. Those who intend to relish the nostalgia of kampung life would find this place ideal for you since it is surrounded by streams, forest trees, bamboos, honeybees, chicken and ducks. You are bound to bring home priceless memories when staying here. Perahu Kolek Back in the old days, the Malays used perahu kolek as their main transport to cross the calm waters and shallow rivers of Kelantan. Perahu kolek is a vibrantly-painted boat decorated with chengal wood carvings. This ornately-designed boat is painted in many colours and bears patterns symbolising power, beliefs or traditions. The heads of the boat are carved with motifs like stork, okok and caping that are derived from the influence of Ramayana and Mahabrata wayang kulit stories. Stork motif alludes to the efficient animal that is expert in catching fish and represents safety at sea. Technically, the stork-shaped head is placed in front of the boat as a guide for the boatmen when navigating. Okok is a short form for the word bongkok, which means hump in Kelantanese dialect. The word okok is taken from a character in wayang kulit that describes a hunchback from heaven. It is carved in a flat shape, two inches to two feet smaller than the stork carving. Perahu Kolek also has a piece of wood called caping that is tied to the boat’s perch carved in the shape of a tree or mountain, also frequently seen in wayang kulit. Kampung Pulau Gajah Pantai Sabak in Pengkalan Chepa is renowned for perahu kolek rides that are operated by the local community. The boats’ interiors are decorated with carpets and pillows to make travellers feel comfortable and cosy. During the four-kilometre ride on perahu kolek, you can alight at Pengkalan Datu floating market, then stop by at Ar-Rahman Mosque that is famous for its architecture, before returning to Kampung Pulau Gajah Pantai Sabak jetty. The whole two-way trip costs RM400 per boat, which can accommodate up to 10 persons at a time. For more information on tourism in Kelantan, visit http://tourism.kelantan.my/index.php/en/profail.


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Contents

ISSUE 15.2 Cover Photo by @jey.zainudin. CLICK HE RE

@kamarulsulaiman

W E AR E N OW AVAI L AB L E

@notsobackpackers

ONLINE

@oohainbamm @syarehhh

w w w. iss uu. co m /gayatrave l

Departments

014. Editorial Jottings

Gaya Special Feature

012

@n.muif

074. Majestic Johor: Discovering Johor Bahru, Mersing & Kota Tinggi 082. Exploring the Land and Sea in Terengganu

008. Let’s Explore The Extraordinary Kelantan 032. 9 MUST-DO IN SEREMBAN 050. Covid-19 Pandemic: Ipoh City Recovery Plan 056. Swiss-Garden International Hotels, Resorts & Inns Ideal Getaway For Business And Leisure 090. The Philosophy Behind Terengganu Woodcarvings 098. Layan Makan Je @ RTM

Hotels & Resorts

GAYA Traveller

120. 126.

021. An All-Girls Desaru Getaway!

Destinations

034. Getting All Charged Up by Kelantan

044. #KitaKeKampung Programme Introduces the Villages of Selangor: Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris & Kampung Bukit Bangkong 052. Being Kampung People in Sabak Bernam 058 Unlocking Desaru Coast’s as a Potential Beach Retreat via Klook 066. Selangor: A Plate of Culture, A Bowl of Rice

092. 100. 104. 108. 114.

Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas Brings Authentic Luxury to Malaysia’s Golden Shores Experiencing Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka & Hotel Seri Malaysia Port Dickson Savouring the Delights of Kuantan and Temerloh with Hotel Seri Malaysia Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island

Gaya Interview

YB Ustaz Zawawi Mughni, Executive Councillor for Islamic Affairs, Consumer Affairs and Halal Industry, Selangor State Government. In Service for This Life and the Hereafter Tuan Haji Ramli Mohd Tahir, Managing Director, KDEB Waste Management. Bringing Selangor’s Waste Management Services to New Heights

Travel Anecdotes

132. Aereon Wong


Congratulations

Yang Mulia Tengku Shamsulbhari AlHaj Ibni Yang Amat Mulia Tengku Azman Shah AlHaj S.MK, J.P

on your appointment as

The Patron & Chairman of Gaya Travel Magazine

Our team looks forward to working closely with you in all of our upcoming endeavours. We also wish you success in all of your present and future undertakings.


Digital Illustration by Rain Hamzah (Facebook: Rain Hamzah

Editorial Jottings

At time of writing, which is in mid-November 2020, Malaysia is battling with the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which leads to the imposition of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in specific areas, especially the state of Sabah and parts of Klang Valley, to curb the spread of the virus. However, unlike the previous Movement Control Order (MCO), many sectors of the economy are permitted to open but strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be institutionalised and members of the public are urged to stay home if they don’t have strong reasons to go out. The majority of office workers situated in areas undergoing the CMCO - except those in finance and administration, including essential services - are urged to work from home where possible. Even classes for students have now moved online since schools and colleges are closed. Businesses are forced to restrategise and find other ways to meet and serve customers’ demands through digitalisation. When it comes to travel and tourism, those who reside in the CMCO-imposed areas have their movements curtailed to within their respective districts. Fortunately, for others who are located in green zones (areas with very few or no COVID-19 cases), they can freely travel to other green zones, while avoiding high risk areas labelled as red zones and keep adhering to the SOPs.

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As we adapt to this new normal, we must accept the fact that the threat of the pandemic persists as long as there is no vaccine. It is imperative for us to keep our spirits up, remain hopeful and continue to be positive that in the end, we will eventually win in bringing the pandemic under control - or better yet, eliminate it - because as the famous writer on spirituality and wisdom C.C. Scott once said, “the human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it”. What we can do now is to make sure that we minimise the risk of being infected by maintaining social distance, donning effective surgical masks, washing our hands regularly and keeping our health in check as we go about our lives. Since Gaya Travel Magazine team is based in Kuala Lumpur and unable to travel overseas because the borders are still closed, the team decides to focus on destinations within the Malaysian borders such as Desaru Coast (pages 21 & 68); Kelantan (page 34); the villages of Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris and Kampung Bukit Bangkong in Sepang, Selangor (page 44); the villages of Kampung Parit 2, Kampung Parit 3 and Kampung Pasir Panjang in Sabak Bernam, Selangor (page 52); Hulu Selangor and Kuala Selangor (page 66); the islands of Johor (page 74); Marang and Kuala Terengganu districts (page 82); including Melaka, Port Dickson, Kuantan and Temerloh with Rangkaian Hotel Seri Malaysia (pages 100 & 104). When it comes to accommodations, the team also brings you Anantara Desaru Coast (page 92); Sutera Sanctuary Lodges at Manukan Island (page 108); and Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island (page 114). It is the team’s hope that the contents of this issue offer enriching ideas on where Malaysia-based travellers can head to locally, while at the same time keeping their (and the team’s) wanderlust alive. Apparently, Malaysia is not short of wondrous gems awaiting to be discovered by travellers, and Gaya Travel Magazine is committed to carry on highlighting them, irrespective of whether the borders remain closed or otherwise. Till then, see you in the next issue. Stay safe and stay healthy friends! JUHAN KAMARUDDIN@JEREMY KHALIL

Email your comments to jeremy@gayatravel.com.my

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An All-Girls Desaru Getaway!


JOHOR JOHOR BAHRU

DESARU COAST

It is official: the passport is truly the most useless thing for many Malaysians in the year 2020. When the Prime Minister announced that the Movement Control Order is to be continued until 31 December 2020, we knew we had to take a break from travelling beyond the country’s borders for a while. We are taking strict precautionary measures during the Covid-19 pandemic for the sake of our family. Nevermind the country’s borders – we have not even crossed any state borders since the whole Movement Control Order was implemented back in March 2020!

At the time of writing, Malaysia is bracing for the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic with daily new cases numbers on the uptrend, with the affected areas mostly concentrating in Sabah, Kedah and Klang Valley. However, it is impossible to ignore the travelling itch and the excitement of scouring the internet for good deals – the planning, the decision making, the booking, and even the dreaded packing! We miss all of that. While travelling far and beyond is not feasible, a change of air is still doable. Life was getting a bit too routine and monotonous for us, hence a quick break to recharge is warranted. So, we decided that a getaway with our girlfriends is the way to go! It was to be a much-deserved self-pampering trip with our closest and dearest girlfriends, which is always a good idea. After some brainstorming on our destination, we decided on Desaru Coast for two nights. In hindsight, we feel that we should have at least stayed for three nights instead. Desaru Coast was the perfect choice due to its proximity to Johor Bahru since it is still in the Covid-19 green zone (no cases reported) and we haven’t been back to Desaru since the early 1990s! Therefore we thought it would be nice to see how the once sleepy holiday town has changed over time.


Instead of having to drive for three hours from Johor Bahru as in the past, Desaru Coast now is only 45 minutes’ drive away, thanks to the Senai – Desaru Expressway (SDE), which has opened since 2011. The highlight of the journey to Desaru was the 1.7-kilometre long SDE Bridge – the longest, single plane cable-stayed bridge in Malaysia – to cross the Johor River, which we find impressive! With the travelling time saved, Desaru is fast becoming a popular beach destination for daytrippers. This is indeed a happy news to us because now we have discovered a good beach holiday destination that is practically in our backyard. We were pleasantly surprised with the present Desaru compared to what we remembered back when we were small. The late Sultan Iskandar was a keen windsurfer, and most of our Desaru trips back in the 80s were because of His Majesty’s love for this water sport. If we were not mistaken, annual internationallevel windsurfing competitions were held in Desaru. We recalled the waves as harsh and fierce, which made Desaru suitable for windsurfing. Truth be told, we were too young to remember much about Desaru, and our last trip to Desaru before this was only for one night. Since hotels were not that many then, we frequented Desaru View Hotel (currently Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort) and the chalets by the beach

that have now become staff housing for Desaru Coast! There were not that many shops too, and we had to go deep into the town of Bandar Penawar to look for sundry shops. Fast forward to the present day, Desaru now has come of age, even though it does reverberate with a smalltown vibe, but there are more shops not far from the hotels and resorts. It is now even more tourist- and familyfriendly with the presence of attractions like the Adventure Waterpark and Desaru Fruit Farm. A free shuttle service that runs on schedule taking visitors to selected places in Desaru Coast is also provided.


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The Abode Since we haven’t been utilising our usual annual travelling budget, we could very well afford a nice vacation this time around. Our fellow team members from the magazine have been raving about their stay at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas (Anantara) a few weeks earlier, so we thought Anantara would be a nice choice for us too. But instead of the normal rooms, we chose the twobedroom villa for the ultimate all-girls getaway! Staying true to the new norms of vacationing during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reassuring to observe that the management of Anantara

seriously adheres to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that the Malaysian government has imposed. Upon arrival, we were requested to check in using the MySejahtera App, and our body temperatures taken. We were then led to the lobby overlooking the infinity pool with a spread out view of the beach for further processing. At that time, we were greeted by the very hands-on General Manager (we caught him sanitising the dining tables at breakfast) Mr. Christian Gerart and the PR & Marcom Manager Ms. Sri Umayal Muthalu as well. The lobby is a fabulous space to lounge around and watch the world go by. We adore the lounge chairs; each of them as big as a queen-sized bed!


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Our two-bedroom villa is a two-storey stand-alone villa with a surrounding wooden fence for privacy. Anantara, being a luxury chain from Thailand, has presence across the globe and has chosen Desaru Coast as its first Malaysian home. Naturally, good aesthetics and architecture are expected from the brand no less, thus we were pleased with what we saw. The highlights of our two-bedroom villa are the swimming pool, Nespresso machine, a notably welcoming bed that feels like a snug hug when being in it, the rain shower with the heavenly Patchouli scented shower gel, and of course the view from the second floor! We also love that the villa is equipped with three water closets that come with their own

doors, separated from the rest of the bathroom space. The common area holds a small dining table perfect for morning and evening snack. And may we add that there are plenty of seats inside as well as outside the villa? The villa’s common area can even accommodate up to 20 people and still not crammed! We just love lounging on our private pool deck that overlooks the lagoon. In short, Anantara is a good choice for those looking for a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space for a relaxing getaway because it does not feel crowded at all, especially when we need to maintain social distancing.


The Feasts Boy, did we eat! We were all suffering from indigestion due to the amount of delicious food we consumed throughout the trip. » Dinner at Sea.Fire.Salt, Anantara As a a warm up, we had dinner at Anantara’s beachfront restaurant, which had a nice touch because it provides each diner with an individually wrapped wet tissue for quick sanitisation and a self-sealing plastic bag to keep our face mask when dining. We ordered to share several appetisers and mains like Beef Carpaccio, Tuna Tartare, Grilled Seafood Platter and pasta. While everything was delicious, the highlight of our dinner was the Chocolate Fondant, the perfect way to end the night!

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Sea.Fire.Salt is open on Wednesdays through Sundays (Lunch from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., Dinner from 6:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.)

» Breakfast at Turmeric, Anantara Our favourite thing to look forward to during holiday is the hotel’s breakfast buffet. Anantara’s breakfast spread was fantastic. Due to the new norm, we could only hold our plates while the food is spooned by the servers. It is compulsory to wear masks when we are at the food stations. Menu on offer are the typical spread at any reputable hotel: a good mix of pastries, cereals, eggs (they offer poached eggs!) upon request, local and western fares, cold cuts and not forgetting hot and cold drinks. The orange juice was so good that we can’t help but crave for it days after we checked out! Turmeric is open daily (Breakfast from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., Lunch from 12:00 p.m. until 6.00 p.m., Dinner from 6:00 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.)


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» Lunch at Nelayan Seafood By The Coast, Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort If you love Chinese-styled seafood, do come to this restaurant. We enjoyed its food dearly because the fish was caught fresh from the aquariums within the restaurant. It was our first time eating siput gonggong (a type of edible sea snails), and we must say that it is tasty! We also had Nyonya-styled steamed sea bass, salted egg cuttlefish, braised tofu, brocolli with oyster sauce and foo yung omelette, all eaten with steamed white rice. Nelayan Seafood By The Coast is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. Address: Tunamaya Beach & Spa Resort, Desaru Coast, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor. Tel: +6 07 833 8803 » Dinner at Prego, The Westin Desaru Coast Resort We have been told that making reservations to eat here is a must, considering it is popular with the holiday goers. The bread here is superb, especially when eaten with marinara sauce. Since we were still stuffed from the hearty lunch at Nelayan, we decided to “order something light”, which turned out to be their signature salt crusted sea bass, bruschetta, spaghetti carbonara, pizza margherita, and all of the desserts that were on their menu! 028

Prego is open on Tuesdays through Sundays from 6:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Address: The Westin Desaru Coast Resort, Jalan Pantai 3, Desaru Coast, 81930 Bandar Penawar, Johor. Tel: +6 07 838 3333 » Lunch at Sengat Seafood Restaurant After checking out, we decided to have lunch at a nearby smallish fishing town called Teluk Sengat, which is about 30km away. It was a nice afternoon drive, passing by palm oil plantations along the way. This Chinese seafood restaurant looked like it has been around for generations, indicating that it has endured all these years because it serves uncompromisingly scrumptious food through its irresistibly mouth-watering menu! Interestingly, the price here is just a fraction of Desaru’s standard price. We ordered steamed sea bass (again!), chilli crabs with fried small buns called mantao on the side, fried lobster with butter, kailan (Chinese broccoli) with oyster Sauce and onion omelette. Everything was finger-licking good that we decided to bring home another order of chilli crabs and steamed lobster with garlic! Sengat Seafood Restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Address: 58, Jalan Belanak Teluk Sengat, 81940 Kota Tinggi, Johor. Tel: +6 07 895 5116


Gaya Special Feature

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M U S T - D O

I N

S E R E M B A N

For a complete immersion of Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan, the following are nine memorable activities that you should do when you are in the city... 1. EXPLORING BANDAR WARISAN SEREMBAN

With history spanning over 120 years, the city of Seremban has witnessed different phases of history, from the arrival of Minangkabau settlers, British colonisation and Japanese occupation to this day and age. With this in mind, Seremban City Council has developed a heritage trail named ‘Jejak Warisan Seremban’ (Seremban Heritage Trail), which invites travellers to trace Seremban’s charms and uniqueness through historical architecture, culture, and community. The trail begins from Seremban Train Station and ends at Pokok Getah Pertama Negeri Sembilan. Be sure to download the heritage map from https://www.mbs.gov.my/en/visitors/ serembans-charm/culture-and-heritage/jejakwarisan-seremban.

2. ‘SELFIE’ AT SEREMBAN STREET ART

For Instagram fanatics, Seremban Street Art is definitely a must-visit. The street art covers Jalan Dato Abd. Rahman, Jalan Tunku Hassan, Jalan Yam Tuan, and Jalan Dato’ Sheikh Ahmad. There are over 40 murals painstakingly painted by local artists from the state and across the country. The

themes of the street art include heritage, culture and prominent figures of Negeri Sembilan, besides ethnic groups, flora and fauna. Striking a pose alongside the street art is a must because the artworks are painted in 3D, resulting in unique effects on your photos!

3. WATER BIKE @ TAMAN TASIK SEREMBAN

Best suited for families, water bikes offer travellers the pleasant experience of exploring the Seremban Lake and relishing the surrounding garden’s tranquil atmosphere while pedalling on the water surface. The ticket price for the water bikes is reasonable too. Since riding on water bikes was also popular back in the 80s and 90s, the experience might just rekindle old, delightful memories.

4.VISIT NEGERI SEMBILAN’S FIRST RUBBER TREE

Do you know that Bandar Seremban is home to the oldest rubber tree in Negeri Sembilan? It is over 120 years old, the same age as the first rubber tree in Malaysia located in Kuala Kangsar, hence currently valued at MYR3.5 million! Travellers can locate this tree next to the Galeri DiRaja Seremban (Seremban Royal Gallery), which is easily accessible via a walkway.

5. ENJOY NEGERI SEMBILAN’S AU THENTIC FOOD

The unique culture of Negeri Sembilan creates 1001 flavours that excite all food lovers. Luckily, they do not have to search hard because Seremban itself has plenty of eateries that provide authentic culinary offerings that are served in various restaurants, stalls, or food street. Of course, one dish that every foodie must try is masak lemak cili api (dish cooked in spicy vibrant yellow curry) because no trip to Seremban - and even Negeri Sembilan for that matter - is complete without this specialty.


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6. CLIMBING MOUNTAINS OR HILLS IN SEREMBAN DISTRICT

8. LEARN ABOU T PERPATIH CUSTOM

For a long time, Seremban has been functioning as the heart of Perpatih custom, which is practised by the Minangkabau community who originated from West Sumatera, known for their tolerant, industrious, and consensual disposition. To learn more about Perpatih, you should head to Negeri Sembilan National Department for Culture and Arts (http:// www.jkkn.gov.my/en/national-departmentculture-and-arts-jkkn-negeri-sembilan) and any of the museums in Negeri Sembilan (https://lmns.ns.gov.my/my/), among others. Negeri Sembilan National Department for Culture and Arts holds Negeri Sembilan cultural performances too at certain times and venues.

Due to its geographical location, Seremban is surrounded by a portion of the Titiwangsa Mountain Range that make up the backbone of Malaysia. Travellers can experience the uniqueness of this mountain range by hiking up the hills and mountains found there, for instance Gunung Angsi, Gunung Berembun, Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul, Bukit Kepayang and many more. No matter which peak travellers decide to conquer, these eco-tourism sites are sure to create unforgettable experience!

7. TAKE PICTURES AT MOSQUES IN SEREMBAN

There are several iconic mosques that you can visit in the city of Seremban. These mosques are open to the public and both Muslims and non-Muslims are welcome! These mosques offer trained guides who dispense information related to Islam and the mosques’ architecture. Some of the mosques have even existed for a few centuries and possess unique architectural styles such as archipelagic, Minangkabau, Indian, Turkish, Moroccan and Chinese. For a more contemporary take, you can visit Masjid Jamek Seremban, Masjid Hussain Seremban 2, Masjid Sri Sendayan and Masjid Negeri.

Seremban Street art

Discover Seremban

Seremban Heritage Trail

Seremban City Map

9. EXPLORE ‘EXTREME’ ACTIVIT Y

Extreme activities have become a craze among travellers nowadays to challenge their strength and courage. Extreme activities to be experienced in Seremban include all-terrain vehicles (ATV), go-kart, motocross, high rope, flying fox, archery and more.


Destinations

Getting All Charged Up by Kelantan Te x t b y MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI Images by M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J E L A N I & M AWA R D I Y U N U S

I couldn’t remember the last time I went to Kelantan but my mother assured me that I’ve been there when I was a child. The memory was so blurry that it kept me inquisitive everytime people mention Kelantan, the land of Che Siti Wan Kembang. So when I received the invitation by Tourism Malaysia to join a fam trip entitled ‘Ekspresi Media Kelantan 2020’, I was super excited and said to myself: ‘THIS IS ANSWER!’. With domestic tourism currently being revived after being halted by the Movement Control Order imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 within Malaysia, Kelantan remains optimistic of its Visit Kelantan 2020 campaign. The state, beyond shadow of a doubt, is in full gear to welcome local travellers. After experiencing Kelantan for five days and four nights, specifically Kuala Krai, Tumpat and Kota Bharu, I must admit that despite its low-key outlook, Kelantan actually is an exciting destination for curious travellers like me. I surely look forward to uncover more of its gems in the near future!


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The writer admiring the ‘God’s Light’ phenomenon at Gua Keris.


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along Kenerong River is highlyrecommended. It is best done in groups as the experience brings travellers to float along the river while enjoying nature for an hour and a half.

Clockwise from the top of the previous page: Tubing at Sungai Kenerong offers a relaxing experience; Mr Nik Mohd. bin Nik Mohd. Nor with his bestselling concoction, teh beng madu; some of the boats that sell local snacks and delicacies at Pantai Suri Floating Market.

Warung Pak Mat Pulau Pisang This warung is almost, if not always, full on weekends with locals who wish to have breakfast or lunch. The riverside restaurant offers various food and beverages, but there is one signature drink in particular that keeps the people coming: teh beng madu (honey ‘pulled’ tea). Owned by Nik Mohd Nik Mohd Nor, the drink is concocted from the combination of madu tualang (giant honey bee) and madu kelulut (stingless bee) since each type of honey carries different health benefits. Seven types of local teas are also used to make the drink besides fresh milk to produce such a satisfying glass of teh beng madu.

WHAT TO EXPERIENCE IN KELANTAN: Jelawang Pipe Resort and Extreme Park Owned by Wan Zonnum Al Masri, 24, who has deep passion towards extreme games, this resort offers accommodations and activities. The two types of accommodations available are tube stay and A-frame stay. Among the activities travellers should experience include hiking, abseiling, rock-climbing and zip-lining, which offers the stunning view of Gunung Che Tahir and Air Terjun Sungai Batu at once! With dedicated and certified guides, the resort also cater to activities outside of the resort area such as caving at Gua Ikan Complex and water-tubing at Sungai Kenerong. Contact: +6 014 832 4363 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ Jelawangpiperesort/ GPS: 5.370142, 101.968670 Gua Ikan Complex Gua Ikan (Fish Cave) Complex in Dabong consists of a series of limestone caves; however, only four are open to the public: Gua Ikan, Gua

GPS: 6.182247, 102.246538

Pagar, Gua Gelap and Gua Keris. The caving experience here allows travellers to enjoy the amazing limestone caves that are 150 million years old while learning about the caves’ ecosystem and natural wonders through a guided tour, ranging from the formation of stalagmites and stalactites to some of its intriguing residents like trapdoor spiders and Vaughan’s balsam species. But the most anticipated wonder must be the God’s Light phenomenon at Gua Keris, where the ray of sun pierces through the cave’s roof to its floor, turning the atmosphere magical. However, travellers should understand that this phenomenon is conditional upon the timing and the weather, including luck! GPS: 5.353531, 102.027364 Water-Tubing at Kenerong River For a more relaxing experience, tubing

Pantai Suri Floating Market This is Malaysia’s first floating market that has been opened since 2016 where travellers can find a one-of-a-kind experience: buying comestibles from small boats and consuming them on the island. There are around 20 boats selling various kinds of foods and drinks, including lokan bakar, sotong sumbat, kerabu nipah and etok-etok salai, which all come recommended. They also have several stalls on the island offering more food options. Travellers can look forward to watch activities like wild rooster crowing competition and enjoy performances like dikir barat. To get to this island, travellers should head to Medan Ikan Bakar Jetty near Warung Pak Mat Pulau Pisang and hire a boat at the cost of MYR15 for return journey. Another alternative is via Kuala Besar Jetty at the cost of MYR2 one way. Entrance fee: MYR1 for adults / Free for kids below 12 years old Operation hours: 8.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. (Saturday only) GPS: 6.182247, 102.246538

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Ayu Fashion Batik Workshop Located in Kampung Talak, this workshop is a producer of batik Kelantan using the traditional blockprint technique. Interestingly, there are five thousand block-prints being showcased here. Travellers can witness how batik fabrics are produced and even take part in batik-colouring and batik-stamping. Many choices of beautiful batik apparel are also on sale at this workshop’s gallery. Contact: +6 09 719 6178 GPS: 6.149036, 102.153991

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Sabye Sabye Wakaf Bharu This restaurant offers Malay, Western, Thai and Korean menus, offering diners generous options to be put on their plates! It also has ample beautiful space for travellers to enjoy their meals comfortably. Among the menus recommended are seafood tomyam, steamed sea bass with lime, and Korean chicken with cheese. Contact: +6 014 908 9006 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ Sabye-sabye-cafe-374106919863451/ GPS: 6.135609, 102.216508 Galeri Wayang Kulit Tradisional Kelantan Wayang Kulit Tradisional Kelantan is a traditional puppet-shadow play synonymous to Kelantan. Visitors who want to watch this play can head to the gallery erected by Muhammad Dain Othman, fondly called Tok Dalang Pak Dain (Uncle Dain the Storyteller). Interestingly, he is recognised as this art form’s only accredited storyteller in the country!

Contact: +6 016 215 9422 (Pak Dain) GPS: 6.136018, 102.217181 Perahu Kolek Experience at Pengkalan Datu Perahu kolek is a type of traditional Malay Kelantanese boat historically used for fishing. Some believe it originated from Pattani, Thailand. The boat is recognisable through its intricate, multicoloured design on its body that is made from cengal, a sturdy and highly-durable wood.

More than just watching puppetshadow play, travellers can also learn about its history and legacy in Malaysia.

Travellers who wish to experience this boat can head to Cerana Villa Resort and Floating Restaurant on Saturday. The cruise experience, which costs only MYR5 per person, brings travellers to witness daily life and activities along the river such as catching lokan (a type of freshwater clam), extracting nira nipah (palm nectar) and more. The journey take around 30 minutes.

Note: Travellers who wish to watch and learn about the performance need to make earlier reservations.

Contact: +6 019 269 5744 (Mohd Asri Husin) GPS: 6.1386338,102.3228142


Rumah Cina Kampung Kelantan After 200 years and six generations, this house in Kota Bharu remains strong and an embodiment of a traditional Kelantan Chinese architecture. The house is owned by Koet Siew Liang and her husband, Chan Awang. Parts of the house were originally built from bamboo but now replaced with wood for safety reasons. Some features within the house can hardly be found in modern houses. Since it is still used as private residence by the owners, travellers must always be respectful when checking out the house. Masjid Ar-Rahman, Pulau Gajah Built in 2016, this exceptionally unique mosque – with its mixed design influences from Indonesia, Morocco, Yemen, and Turkey – can accommodate one thousand worshippers at any one time. The pillars at its two main entrances were sourced from Yemen, while the antique door at the imam’s (person who leads the congregation in prayer) chamber, said to be hundreds of years old, was brought from Morocco.

From above, the mosque appears as if it sits on an island since it is surrounded by swamp. GPS: 6.159549, 102.332783 Pantai Senok Often dubbed as the ‘Nami Island of Kelantan’ due to its rows of towering trees resembling the eponymous island in South Korea, the beach is a favourite picnic spot, especially among locals to spend their weekends. Since several local stalls selling food and drinks are available, travellers can easily relax and take photographs with their loved ones when they are here.

of collectibles, ranging from Hot Wheels miniatures to more personal and exclusive collections, including the original replica of UFO spaceship used in the Senario XX (2002) movie, contributed by the movie’s director Aziz M. Osman. A few interactive games are installed around the building too for travellers to play. Entrance fee: MYR10 per pax Operation hours: 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. (everyday except Friday) GPS: 6.134332, 102.251505

GPS: 6.164052, 102.347211 Collectibles Museum With approximately 40,000 items, this museum, has been opened to the public since 2018. Owned by the Tengku Puan Laksamana Kelantan Yang Amat Mulia (YAM) Tengku Sharifah Azwan Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, this museum exhibits various kinds

This page, top: The intricate detailing that can be spotted at Masjid Ar-Rahman, Pulau Gajah. Previous page, from top to bottom: One of the workers painstakingly colouring the batik by hand at Ayu Fashion Batik Workshop; Pak Dain performing the puppet-shadow play; Perahu kolek that can be experienced near Pengkalan Datu.

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The writer enjoying his time at Pantai Senok.


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Left: Roti Ayang, which can be savoured at Ayang Café. Right: A mural that is part of Kota Bharu Street Art.

Ayang Cafe If there is one place where travellers can taste a majority Kelantanese specialities like nasi kapit, nasi tumpang, nasi dagang and nasi lemak, this striking pink restaurant could be it. But the one best-selling signature that makes Ayang Café popular is its comforting Roti Ayang, a toast with kaya (coconut jam) and half-boiled egg on top, often referred to as ‘telur goyang’ (quivering egg). This restaurant is best for breakfast. Operation hours: 6.30 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. (Everyday) Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ayangcafe/ GPS: 6.115845, 102.248787 Pasar Siti Khadijah Originally named Buluh Kubu Market and opened since 1985, the market’s present name is attributed to the wife of Prophet Muhammad, Siti Khadijah, who was a well-known businesswoman. The name is also apt because the majority of the vendors in this three-storey market are women. Travellers can find various good and wares, including food, souvenirs, kitchen utensils, fabrics and more, making it one of the most iconic attractions in Kota Bharu. GPS: 6.130076, 102.239168

Good to know: While you are in Kota Bharu, why not hop on one of the trishaws? The rates differ depending on distance and destination but the journey is indeed memorable because you can have a warm conversation with the friendly driver (usually local middle-aged males) along the way.

Kota Bharu Street Art The colourful murals found near Jalan Dato Pati, behind the rows of shop houses, adds vibrancy to Kota Bharu. One of the streets called Palestine Street Art is painted with murals to depict the struggles of the Palestinians as a symbol of solidarity. Other murals that travellers can find around the area represent Kelantan’s treasured icons like food, art forms, public figures, landmarks and more. Be attentive, though, because the murals are not only painted on the walls, but right beneath your feet! Gaya Travel Magazine team members extend our heartfelt gratitude to Tourism Malaysia Kelantan Office for making the writer’s trip to Kelantan possible.


Destinations

#KitaKeKampung Programme Introduces the Villages of Selangor: Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris & Kampung Bukit Bangkong Te x t b y J U H A N K A M A R U D D I N Images by ED JUNAIDI, JUHAN KAMARUDDIN, NUAR MOHD. DIAH

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To jump-start the local economy after the easing of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Selangor State Cultural Council (MKNS) organises a programme called #KitaKeKampung (#WeGoToTheVillage), which was launched by the Selangor Entrepreneur, Rural, Village and Traditional Village Development Committee Chairman The Honourable Rodziah Ismail and endorsed by the Selangor State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN Selangor). #KitaKeKampung comprises a series of familiarisation trips to selected traditional villages in Selangor (Malaysia’s most developed state) with the objective of making the public realise that villages and rural communities have significant role to play in this day and age, especially when they function as the main supplier of food and commodities for the cities, proof that the urban and rural economies are inextricably linked. Since these villages are rich in customs, traditions and tranquil settings, the programme also promotes them as getaway destinations for the public to escape the urban bustle.


#KitaKeKampung programme kicked off with the first trip to Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris and Kampung Bukit Bangkong, which are collectively known with the acronym Banghuris. The four-day and three-night exploration to these three villages rewards travellers with unique experiences that include feasting on nasi ambeng; making traditional kites unique to Selangor called wau kapal; harvesting coffee; preparing cattle skin as delicacy; creating traditional exfoliants using natural ingredients; purchasing traditional local snacks; learning about dragon fruit cultivation; dropping by at a nearby Orang Asli settlement; and playing traditional games like wooden top-spinning , sepak takraw (footvolley game using ball made from rattan), and pipe-blowing. Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris and Kampung Bukit Bangkong are located in Sepang district, 35 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), 50 kilometres from Putrajaya and around 80 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur. When these three villages combined, Banghuris in total offers 100 rooms distributed among 80 participating homes that are ready to serve as travellers’ accommodations. Throughout the years, Banghuris has been receiving many local and foreign guests due to its authentic Peninsular Malaysia kampung vibe. Various Malaysian VVIPs had even visited Banghuris Homestay too, including His Majesty the 12th King of Malaysia Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong DYMM Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail in 2006. Contact: Haji Basir Bin Wagiman (Chairman): +6 013 300 3942 Fax: +6 03 3142 1010 Madam Misriah binti Natijo: +6 019 391 9547 Mr Azizi bin Haji Basir: +6 019 649 7655 / +6 017 630 3601 Email: banghuris_homestay@yahoo.com

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Clockwise from above: Playing a traditional game called sepak takraw in the compound of a house at Kampung Hulu Chuchoh; dragon fruitbased menu awaits diners at HL Restaurant & Cafe in Sepang; the fertigation system is used to fertilise and water the coir where leafy greens are grown upon at Rumah Sayur.


What to experience at Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris & Kampung Bukit Bangkong Savouring nasi ambeng Popular among the Javanese communities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, nasi ambeng is a meal set served on special occasions consisting of fragrant rice, chicken, tempe (fermented soybeans formed into cakes), fried sambal (local chilli paste), coconut floss and fried noodles, all lumped together onto a large tray that is meant to be shared among four or five persons. The types of food that come along with the rice usually vary according to clans or districts – some might even include fish or soto (clear broth filled with meat and vegetables, together with cubes of compacted rice on the side). Traditionally, nasi ambeng is directly eaten from the tray by diners simultaneously using the right hand, a practice believed to foster closeness and camaraderie among the diners. Observing local vegetables grown through fertigation Rumah Sayur (‘Vegetable House’) refers to a wall-less greenhouse set up on the grounds of Haji Basir’s house and operated by his kin. The greenhouse grows leafy greens that can be produced year-round such as green mustard, water spinach and mung bean sprouts using the technique called fertigation, which is the combination of the words ‘fertiliser’ and ‘irrigation’, on elevated shelves. Fertilisers are systematically injected into the layer of coconut coir on top of these shelves, serving as beds where the vegetables grow upon. The coir is sourced from coconut growers within the area and functions as an effective substitute to soil. Once ready to be harvested, these vegetables can easily be plucked out of their beds without the need for the grower to

bend down laboriously since they are already at height level. Collecting honey from stingless bees Kampung Hulu Chuchoh is also the place where travellers can observe and even partake in harvesting honey from stingless bees. The type of honey produced by stingless bees is considered nutritious and full of health benefits. Stingless bees are not dangerous. They are excellent pollinators, especially for plants like mango, coconut and sapodilla. To cultivate them, the beekeeper or apiarist needs to place the hive boxes containing the stingless bee colonies in the shade, ideally under a tree. If exposed directly to the sun, the stingless bees might die or even migrate elsewhere to form new colonies. When harvesting honey from the stingless bees’ colonies, avoid doing so during rainy season because the honey could contain too much water, thus complicate the processing of the honey as an end product. Exploring a dragon fruit farm (https:// hlrestaurantandcafe.business.site/) Close to Banghuris is the 2.6-hectate HL Dragon Fruit Farm, where travellers can get acquainted with the dragon fruit plant. Interestingly, the farm also runs the first restaurant in Malaysia ever to serve an entire menu based on dragon fruit! This is the place where travellers get to savour dragon fruit popsicle, ice blended dragon fruit, jumbo-sized dragon fruit bun, dragon fruit fried rice, chicken cooked with dragon fruit, seafood cooked with dragon fruit and dragon fruit salad. The dragon fruit plant is actually part of the cactus family. Beginning from seed, it takes between six to eight months to bear fruit, which first

appears as a thorn, then grows into a fragrant flower that blooms only once and at night. As the flower wilts, the base of the flower develops into a fruit rich in nutrients, antioxidants, fibre and prebiotics. It also helps to boost the immune system. The dragon fruit pulp comes in three colours: red, white and yellow. Its texture is similar to watermelon, while the taste can be likened to the kiwi fruit, making it suitable as a fruit salad ingredient. Admiring the Mah Meri at Kampung Orang Asli Bukit Bangkong Did you know that besides Carey Island in Kuala Langat, Kampung Bukit Bangkong is also home to a Malaysian aboriginal tribe called Mah Meri, whose members still practice their traditional way of life? The name Mah Meri means ‘People of the Jungle’ because the tribe traditionally relies heavily on the rainforest for their livelihood. Some are also referred to as Orang Laut (‘People of the Sea’) because they tend to stay close to the sea since they are also fisherfolk. The Mah Meri in Selangor is believed to have migrated from the southern islands of Johor thousands of years ago to flee from enemies. To discover more about the Mah Meri , travellers can simply drop by at the Orang Asli village (https:// www.facebook.com/koabangkong/), which is around 10 minutes’ drive from Kampung Hulu Chuchoh or Kampung Hulu Teris.

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Harvesting coffee The area of Sungai Pelek, Selangor, where all the three villages are situated, has good soil, suitable for growing coffee. Not many know that a small coffee plantation exists in Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, therefore travellers should take the opportunity to try their hand at coffee harvesting when staying here!

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Coffee can be cultivated singularly or rotated with another crop like coconut in the same plot. The type of coffee suitable to be grown in Peninsular Malaysia is Coffea liberica. The coffee tree can grow up to nine metres tall if not pruned and produces flowers that are white and fragrant. Its fruit, called coffee cherries, appear only after four or five years of growth. A hectare of coffee plantation can produce between 750 kilos and 1,000 kilos per year. Once the coffee cherries ripen, the growers will pluck them and remove their skin to obtain the beans inside. Traditionally, the beans are pounded until they become powder, which is then sifted further to make it more refined for consumption. Flying traditional kites Remember when you used to play with kites when you were small? Travellers who stay at Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, Kampung Hulu Teris and Kampung Bukit Bangkong can rekindle such memory by following the steps in making and flying the local traditional kites called wau, which is fun for both children and adults! In the past, kites were flown by the beach for fishermen to use as beacons to navigate their way home after spending time at sea. Nowadays, it is mostly flown for recreational purposes.

Selangor is renowned for its wau kapal (‘boat kite’), which has the shape of a boat at its trailing edge. This type of kite has been played for generations and nowadays recognised as the official traditional kite of Selangor. Launching and flying wau kapal is an experience of its own because it requires specific techniques and skill. Travellers would also be taught how to safely land the kite so that it would not tear apart or endanger the public and the surroundings. Purchasing local snacks at JFISB (http://agrochips.com/) Jamirah Food Industries (M) Sdn Bhd ( JFISB) is one of the largest tapioca chip producers and sellers in Malaysia that operates from Lot 815, Jalan Mempelam, Kampung Bukit Bangkong, producing around 100 tonnes of local snacks per month, and more during festivities. Among the popular tapioca chip flavours produced by JFISB are barbecue, black pepper, and onion and sour cream. Besides tapioca chips, JFISB manufactures and sells banana and sweet potato chips as well, apart from other snacks produced by other small and medium enterprises around the area. Those who buy chips directly from JFSIB are not only the general public but also retailers from near and far who would break down the snacks into smaller packages once they reach home. It is not hard to spot these retailers: they often make their purchases in large quantities that would make your jaw drop! Chewing on cattle skin Who would have thought that cattle skin can be turned into a local delicacy? At Kampung Hulu Chuchoh, travellers can witness the process of converting cattle skin into a food product. On

its own, the skin does not bear any flavour, but when cooked with spices and coconut milk, the skin is converted into a comforting dish. It is believed that cattle skin richly contains collagen, which facilitates skin cell regeneration. Firstly, the cattle skin needs to be dried in the open for up to six months. The skin is then placed over an open fire to burn off the hair. Once charred, the burnt hair is thoroughly scraped off. Afterwards, the skin is boiled overnight to make it soft, elastic and chewy. It is cleaned once again, and finally cut into smaller pieces, ready for consumption. Due to its rigorous and time-consuming process, cattle skin is not commonly available, hence its considerable price. Learning about traditional remedies Madam Tusriah binti Saram, affectionately called Bonda (‘Mother’), is a traditional medicine practitioner and entrepreneur of herbal remedies. Travellers who come to Bonda’s house would be briefed about the importance of traditional healing using age-old techniques passed down through generations. Bonda demonstrates how to develop skin exfoliants made from natural ingredients like rice soaked overnight mixed together with screwpine leaves, turmeric, kaffir lime fruit peel and lemongrass, among others, and kneaded into dough-like form. This homemade exfoliant does not only remove dead skin cells but also improves blood circulation, reenergises the body and expedite the healing of the internal organs, particularly for new mothers undergoing postnatal care.


Above: Coffee cherries and beans on display at Kampung Hulu Chuchoh to enlighten travellers about coffee harvesting. Below: The cattle skin is dried up to six months, the hair removed, then cleaned, boiled, cleaned again and cut into small pieces to be turned into a delicacy.

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COV I D - 1 9 PA N D EM I C : 050

IPOH CIT Y RECOVERY PLAN

The Movement Control Order (MCO) imposed by the Malaysian government in mid-March 2020 to contain the Covid-19 outbreak had profound consequences on many sectors of the economy, with tourism industry being the most badly affected. Travel ban and restrictions have led to a large drop in the number of tourists visiting Malaysia. However, though borders remain closed at the time of writing, domestic tourism is now allowed to resume operations. With the economy-wide stimulus packages rolled out by the government, the tourism sector is beginning to regain its foothold. Affordable accommodation offered by hotels and resorts – including attractive travel packages – have allowed people in the B40 and M40 groups to enjoy the benefits of travelling to popular destinations within Malaysia. Nevertheless, due to the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) are strictly enforced in hotels, resorts, campsites, restaurants, eateries and transportation to break the Covid-19 chain. In response to the challenges brought about by the pandemic and economic downturn, Ipoh City works hard to improve its tourism industry under the leadership of the 12th Mayor, YBhg. Dato’ Haji Rumaizi bin Baharin @ Md. Daud, who is committed to attracting more people to visit

and even invest in Ipoh City by putting in place short-term and long-term planning to make the city more sustainable and liveable. YBhg. Dato’ Haji Rumaizi envisions Ipoh City to become the third most well-known tourism city in Malaysia by 2025 via the 3H concept: Hipster, Heritage and Health. Tourism industry is vital in lifting the economy because tourists, either local or foreign, spend on accommodation, sight-seeing, food, and purchasing items like memorabilia or souvenirs. The revenue generated from these activities are channelled back towards developing and upgrading the city’s infrastructure to create more jobs for locals and enhance their quality of life.


Although Ipoh City is popular for its culinary offerings, efforts are being made to find ways for tourists to spend more nights in Ipoh City not only for its food but its rich heritage as well that tourists can experience before heading to other destinations. As such, YBhg. Dato’ Haji Rumaizi declared that tourism development in Ipoh City to concentrate within the Ipoh Tourism Triangle covering recreational sites such as Gunung Lang; Ipoh Padang and its surroundings; D.R. Seenivasagam Park; and Kampung Kuchai, particularly the Panglima Kinta Mosque and its historically-rich vicinity. Several of the projects are already under way and will be completed by early 2021. These include the Petting Zoo at Gunung Lang; the Kinta Riverwalk; and the light-and-sound features at Ipoh Padang. As for Kampung Kuchai, discussions are being held to designate this area for ecoheritage tourism. One thing that snap-happy tourists should not miss in Ipoh is to follow the two-hour Heritage Trail around Old Town, which leads them to the area’s unique charms, for instance the mural drawings that grace the back-lane

Kellie’s Castle, Batu Gajah

of the shophouses, irresistible souvenirs on sale at Concubine Lane, and a shop featuring accessories displayed upside down. Hipster cafes can be found along the Heritage Trail too, which are magnets for youths and the young at heart generation. On top of that, Ipoh City Council collaborates with other local district authorities in the State of Perak such as Batu Gajah, Kampar and Kuala Kangsar to promote tourism products within the respective districts under a pilot project known as Greater Ipoh. Each of the mentioned districts has its own identity and attractions ranging from geopark to culinary and heritage. Ipoh City is only two hours by train from Kuala Lumpur and an-hourand-a-half drive along the highway from Penang. Both domestic and international tourists can enjoy various cuisines and spend a night or more when savouring the delights of Ipoh City before departing elsewhere. For more information, visit http://www.mbi.gov.my/en.

Gaharu Tea Valley, Kampar

Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar

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Destinations

Being Kampung People in Sabak Bernam Te x t b y M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J E L A N I Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI & ZARNIZAR

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Following the inaugural

#KitaKeKampung familiarisation trip that brought the members of the media, bloggers and influencers to Sepang, the

Selangor State Cultural Council (MKNS) and Selangor State Economic Planning Unit

(UPEN), together with Gaya

Travel Magazine, collaborated again to stage the second #KitaKeKampung trip.

To recap, #KitaKeKampung programme is an initiative

developed by MKNS and UPEN

For the second #KitaKeKampung familiarisation trip, 30 local and international journalists, bloggers and social media influencers were brought to Kampung Parit 2, Kampung Parit 3, and Kampung Pasir Panjang, all located in the district of Sabak Bernam, Selangor. Majority of the residents living in these villages identify themselves as Javanese, while the rest comprises those who are of Minangkabau, Malay, Banjar, Kampar, and Bugis descent.

can be cooked with chicken, meat, or cow’s organs like the skin, stomach and intestines.

In a span of four days and three nights, the participants of the second #KitaKeKampung familiarisation trip were given the opportunity to experience living like locals by participating in various kampung (village) activities.

‘Baling Kelapa’ game Similar to bowling, ‘baling kelapa’ is a simple kampung game that is played using plastic bottles that are filled with water and coconut. The plastic bottles become the pins while the coconut is treated as the ball. Whoever knocks over the most bottles wins; though it does sound simple in theory, it is quite hard because the coconut is not perfectly round in shape and can easily veer off course!

to showcase the merits of the

The following are what went down during the trip…

make the general public realise the

Traditional food demonstration When the participants were introduced to Kampung Parit 2, they realised that this village is heavily influenced by Javanese customs since many who live descended from this ethnic group. Hence, the participants not only tasted, but also learned some of the timehonoured recipes such as sambal taun, ubi ketiwol, sambal cili hijau, ubi getok, and roti canai. Surprisingly, some of these delicacies are so rare that the younger generation might have heard of their names in passing but never tasted them before.

traditional villages in Selangor and significant role these villages and

their respective communities play in this day and age.

What is a traditional village?

>>> Traditional village is defined as an old village formed organically and without planning that is at least 100 years old. >>> The population must not be more than three thousand people and the settlement distribution is heavily dependent on local economic activities such as agriculture, fishing, mining, etc. >>> In Selangor, there are 371 traditional villages spread across the state.

Sambal taun is a type of traditional paste that can expire in over a year! Its ingredients include galangal, coconut milk, sugar, salt, dry shrimps, garcinia atroviridis, and chilies, which is the most important ingredient since it functions as preservative. The sambal

We also learned how to make a traditional snack called ubi ketiwol, made from coconut, brown sugar and cassava. Firstly, the cassava needs to be dried for three days before being crushed into flour. It will then be steamed until its colour turns soft yellow, then mixed with grated steamed coconut and brown sugar.

Wak Yatim (left) guiding participants on how to make sambal hijau ikan bilis.

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Making trumpet using coconut leaf Some traditional games can be as basic as involving only a piece of coconut leaf. Do you know that you can convert a coconut leaf into a trumpet with praiseworthy results? Imagine when the participants of the #KitaKeKampung trip blew their own trumpets made from coconut leaves together – the whole affair turns hearteningly celebratory! Making a scarecrow Scarecrow is a type of mannequin that resembles a human figure largely used to repel the birds from coming over and eating the crops. Since Sabak Bernam has vast paddy fields, scarecrows are common in these villages. We experienced making scarecrows using wood sticks for the body, old coconut for the head and unused old clothes to don the figure. The scarecrow needs to appear scary or furious to chase birds away. Enjoying kuda kepang Kuda kepang (flat horse) is a prominent cultural dance originated from Java. It is performed by all-male dancers with specific roles accompanied by an ensemble of traditional

musical instruments, mostly percussion. The dance is often associated with spirits whereby at one point, the dancers will go into trance and become possessed by animal spirits, leading them to do unusual things like ripping off coconut husks using teeth, eating flowers, and walking on burning coal. Catching catfish Catfish is one of the common fishes that can be found in paddy fields. Though it stings, this no-scale fish is actually delicious and popular to be turned into traditional dishes like pecal lele. The participants experienced catching catfish in the middle of paddy field using their bare hands. Though it initially looked scary and muddy, this activity made everyone excited after their first catch, prodding them to catch even more! Visiting a corn farm In a nearby village, Kampung Pasir Panjang, there is approximately 100 acres of land, so vast that it is said that every family owns a corn farm. The type of corn planted here is sweet corn, whereby the seeds are imported from

Clockwise from left, top: The sweet ketiwol that is perfect for snack; one of the scarecrows creatively put together by the participants of #KitaKeKampung familiarisation trip to Sabak Bernam; trumpets made from coconut leaves.

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Taiwan, China, Thailand, and parts of Malaysia. As the name suggests, this type of corn is literally sweet and can be eaten raw! Most of the harvested corns are sold to nearby villages, including other areas in Klang Valley. Besides being eaten raw, the corn can also be converted into lepat jagung (sticky rice dumpling with corn wrapped in corn leaves), corn juice, cucur jagung (corn fritters) and more. The corn leaves can even be turned into handicraft products! Laman Tebu Aidil Orked (https://www.facebook.com/inaidiltebuorkid/) Belonged to Aidil Mohamad, this place in Kampung Parit 3 is actually a unique restaurant occupying both sides of a long trench near the owner’s house amidst a sugarcane plantation. The place is best visited in the afternoon when it serves simple but exquisite dishes like kepak madu (honey grilled chicken wings), tongkeng madu (honey grilled pope’s nose / pygostyle), nasi lemak with fried egg and laksa (spicy noodle soup). It tastes even better when consumed with sugarcane, watermelon, or pineapple juice, which are all available here.

Wak Lee, King of Bonsai Ramlee Ishak, 56, who is better known as Wak Lee has been planting bonsai since 26 years ago. After learning from few Bonsai Masters in Kelantan, he puts his skill and passion into practice at his house in Sabak Bernam until now. In September 2020, UPEN Selangor recognized him as ‘Raja Bonsai’ (King of Bonsai), an award to acknowledge his expertise in bonsai cultivation and demonstration skill. According to Wak Lee, the value of bonsai tree is depending on its maturity - the older it gets, the more expensive it will be. But generally, a bonsai tree can be bought from as low as MYR30 to as expensive as MYR40 thousands! Those who are interested to buy his bonsais can contact Wak Lee at +6013 266 3994.

Travellers who would like to experience some of the activities in Sabak Bernam can contact Homestay Sungai Haji Dorani at +6 013 607 7025 (Abd Rahman Daud).

Clockwise from left: Kuda kepang performance at Kampung Parit 2; one of the participants, Syafiqah Hashim, showing off her catch; Nasi lemak with tongkeng madu and kepak madu.

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Destinations

Unlocking Desaru Coast as a Potential Beach Retreat via Klook Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A K E R I

Images by RAIHAN FOZIAN

My palms are sweating, yet the sea breeze feels soothing as it caresses my face.

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Perhaps, I have underestimated this sport.God knows how many times I have swung the club, but the balls refused to go far. So, for the umpteenth time, I muster my utmost concentration and repeat the basic steps again by parting my feet just enough, dipping the knees down slightly and swing! This time, as if the Angel of Golf has finally taken a pity on me, the ball shoots triumphantly over the undulating course.“Hey, there you go! That’s a nice one,” my coach cheered. I am in Desaru Coast now. I’ve never been to this part of Johor before; the destination is almost in its own bubble: beautiful, clean, and filled with premium hotels, perfect for a family holiday, a romantic getaway or for solos seeking solitude. This coastal area, which is about an hour’s drive from Johor Bahru, boasts a ribbon of white sand that stretches 17 kilometres long. And as for those coming from Kuala Lumpur, they need to drive for about four to five hours to reach Desaru Coast by taking the North-South Expressway heading towards Johor Bahru and then turn on to the Senai-Desaru Expressway. Desaru Coast on its own has plenty to offer, from premium stay, rejuvenating spa session, unique rock & roll experience to water sports galore. If you are keen to experience them, I suggest that you make your bookings via Klook Malaysia, where travellers can find all-rounded packages that include accommodation, attraction passes, and food and beverage credits at selected restaurants. These packages are available at attractive prices too. My abode in this exclusive holiday resort hotspot is none other than The Westin Desaru Coast Resort (www. marriott.com/hotels/travel/jhbwi-the-westin-desaru-coastresort), where guests are promised a sun-drenched refuge

from the stress of everyday life. Design is kept minimalist and inspired by the ocean. Across its bright and airy lobby, the waters of the South China Sea open up and greet the horizon. The beach is only steps away from the resort, but don’t forget to alternate your lounging time with swimming in the pool because the atmosphere is simply right – after a few laps in the pool together with the occasional visit to the beachside bar, you’ll notice that all your worries evaporate into the salty ocean air. The resort has 275 well-appointed rooms and suites with either garden or sea view. All of them are equipped with standard amenities including the award-winning Westin Heavenly® bed. I love the fact that the hotel ensures that its rooms and bathrooms are friendly for the disabled. For those who like to remain active while on holiday, the resort has a RunWESTIN™ programme that offers guided run led by the resort’s Run Concierge, including Westin Gear Lending with New Balance®. For a little more variety, enter the 24-hour WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio that contains an excellent selection of fitness equipment like treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bikes and the signature TRX Suspension Trainer.


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ATV rides make exploring Desaru Fruit Farm more exhilarating


The food here is what you expect from a five-star resort: delicious and well-presented. The all-day dining restaurant, Seasonal Tastes, boasts an array of international and local offerings. My personal favourite from the restaurant is the freshly baked croissants, which are incredibly fluffy that a single serving won’t be enough! Come dinner time, excite your tastebuds with authentic Italian flavours at Prego, helmed by Chef Massimiliano Ascione who hails from Abruzzo in Southern Italy. Crowd-favourites include the house-made pastas, the stone-fired pizzas, and the saltcrusted seabass. Besides The Westin, other reputable properties located in Desaru Coast are One&Only Desaru Coast, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, and Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast (www.klook.com/en-MY/activity/44802-hard-rockhotel-desaru-coast-breakfast-fun-filled-activities/), which bagged the ‘Best for Families in Malaysia’ title during the prestigious TripZilla Excellence Awards 2019 and can be considered as Desaru Coast’s coolest kid on the block.

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I make a quick visit to Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast due to its close proximity to The Westin, and join the complimentary memorabilia tour, done upon request, which suits diehard music fans or fashion observers in general. The whole experience is filled with fun music trivia and opportunities to view some incredible collections up close, including iconic fashion pieces worn by music legends. I go gaga over Elvis Presley’s gold suit, the Native American-style jacket owned by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and the lace wrap worn by Rihanna in her California King Bed music video. Apart from the above experience, guests of Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast get to rock it out by listening to carefullycurated playlists, tuning in to a selection of vinyl players and classic records, or borrowing one of the 20 Fender® guitars from the menu for a day, all in the comfort of their own rooms – how cool is that?! Right next to the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast sits the 21-acre, family-friendly Adventure Waterpark (https://www. klook.com/en-MY/activity/14639-desaru-coast-adventurewaterpark-ticket-johor-bahru/) that boasts more than 20 fun rides, the largest wave pool in Southeast Asia and a white sandy beach stretching 170 metres long. The Kids Ahoy zone proves to be the most popular among the young visitors when I’m there, with a total of 13 age-appropriate water slides to keep the little ones entertained and occupied, while the Surf Wall zone attracts aspiring surfers who want to learn several tricks on a safe and high-energy surf simulator. But

if you are looking for adrenaline rush, be sure to experience The Tempest (55-foot tube slide that incorporates a sudden 24-foot drop), The Riptide (three steep twisters) and the Kraken’s Revenge, the first water roller-coaster in Malaysia and Southeast Asia. But if those splashing good times are not enough, you can beat the tropical heat further by trying out water sports along Desaru Coast made available by Dash Outdoors (https://www.klook.com/en-MY/activity/47867-jet-skiexperience-desaru-coast/). Established since 2018, the operator is responsible for providing a variety of activities such as jet-skiing, kayaking, surfing and sailing for visitors to Desaru Coast. Most importantly, the operator is fully insured and all activities are supervised by trained experts, so visitors can enjoy the activities with peace of mind. Nevertheless, do be careful if you were thinking of swimming in the sea because the current along the coast is strong. On the other hand, those who are interested in mixing education with pleasure should consider paying a visit to Desaru Fruit Farm (https://www.klook.com/en-MY/ activity/21464-desaru-fruit-farm-adventure-johor-bahru/). This award-winning 180-acre agro-tourism attraction is a treasure trove of knowledge concerning local fruits and vegetation, from old wives’ tales about the plants grown in the farm to time-tested methods of how to successfully cultivate the fruits. Master Gardener Ms Norhayati leads the interactive walking tour that I participate in, which is likened to a crash course on over 100 species of tropical fruit trees grown in the farm. At the end of the tour, guests are treated to a banquet of freshly picked fruits from the farm and a variety of fruit-infused dishes. If you were to visit the farm between mid-June and July, a free flow of durian servings await! For more adventurous souls, Desaru Fruit Farm offers exciting tours too. Guests can choose from either the ATV ride or the jeep tour, and they will never look at a fruit farm the same way again. Elevate the whole experience by booking a sky mirror package through Desaru Fruit Farm as well, which takes guests to a nearby beach to photo shoot the mirror-like reflection of the sky seen during low tide. However, guests need to be aware that the trip to sky mirror is subject to weather conditions. My last stop is none other than The Els Club Desaru Coast (www.elsclubmalaysia.com). Let’s be honest: no trip to this coastal town will be complete without a few swings at this world-class golf course designed by a former World No. 1 golfer, Ernie Els. It boasts three equally beautiful courses


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Clockwise from top left: The pearlescent white sand of Desaru beach; Desaru Fruit Farm also has a small petting area where visitors get to pet fluffy rabbits; bring the colourful props and find your best shot of mirror-like reflection of the sky at Desaru Sky Mirror during low tide; trend-setting garments owned by world renowned music artistes on display at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast.


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The signature thrilling ride at Adventure Waterpark: Kraken’s Revenge.


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Clockwise from top left: The introductory class at the Els Club Academy is coached by qualified PGA or LPGA members; visitors enjoying kayaking at Desaru beach offered by Dash Outdoors; the design at The Westin Desaru Coast takes inspiration from the ocean; sessions at Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast serves up scrumptious local and western fare.

named the Ocean, Ridge and Lake, all designed with various skill levels in mind, and in accordance with strict environmental practices. Interestingly, this golf club also caters to private weddings at the Ocean Course, overlooking the mesmerising South China Sea.

introducing the ropes of the game. I must say that the class is an eye-opener – who knew it takes only one lesson to spark a newfound interest in me? So, does this mean I’m set on a journey to become an avid golfer myself ? Be sure to tune in to all of my upcoming adventures...

After saying the above, it is easy to feel intimidated by the scale of these gorgeous courses if you were a beginner like me. Luckily, this is where the Els Performance Golf Academy comes in handy. Classes are organised in either small groups or individually and coached by qualified and ever-supportive instructors who are PGA or LPGA members. Case in point: my one-hour introductory class with the golf pro, David Lamprecht, is a great mixture of insights and joy. He makes sure that his students are first comfortable with the unfamiliar gears and surroundings, before

To conclude, it is clear that Desaru Coast is created for all kinds of travellers: couples, families, solos, sun seekers, and resort retreaters. It can keep you and your travelling companions busy, if you choose to, because most of the activities mentioned in this article are available all year round. Consider booking the packages via Klook (www.klook.com/en-MY), as this booking platform offers not only exclusive discounts, but also the chance to accumulate Klook credits that users can redeem for their next purchase.


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Destinations

Selangor: A Plate of Culture, A Bowl of Rice Te x t b y LI LY R I A N I Images by RAIHAN FOZIAN & ED JUNAIDI ABU BAKAR

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When eating meets travelling, the combination creates ecstasy that is best shared on social media. And what makes the Eat.Travel. Write Hulu ke Kuala (‘From Hulu Selangor to Kuala Selangor’) familiarisation trip organised by Selangor State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) unique are the cultural and heritage elements highlighted along the way that include gastronomic delights, for example nasi kluban, bakso and soto; historical attractions like Kuala Kubu colonial heritage trail; and recreational activities such as paragliding, cycling in the paddy fields and enjoying Cholo Cholo Hot Springs. On top of all that, travellers can also watch kuda kepang, a traditional Javanese dance performance that has flourished at certain places in Peninsular Malaysia. Hulu Selangor Kuala Kubu was a mining town back in 1925. The kubu (fortress) was constructed before the British colonial powers took over, and it is the site where Raja Mahdi and Syed Mashor fought against Tengku Kudin during the Selangor Civil War from 1867 to 1874. This former British town at the foot of Fraser’s Hill was washed away by the 1883 flood, killing Sir Cecil Ranking, the District Officer at the time. Local legend has it that the flood was due to him shooting a mystical white crocodile regarded as the guardian of the river. Following that incident, Kuala Kubu Bharu was rebuilt on higher ground by Charles Crompton Reade, a town planner from New Zealand, based on garden city concept with distinctive zoning of town, residential areas and hospital separated by gardens, making it the first modern garden township in Asia.


Above: The participants of Eat.Travel.Write 11 familiarisation trip having their picture taken with the kuda kepang performers at Kuala Selangor Below: Hulu Selangor District Land Office, which was previously the British District and Land Office (left), and the Clock Tower (right) that serves as a starting point for the Kuala Kubu Bharu heritage trail.

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Kuala Kubu Bharu Heritage Trail Kuala Kubu Bharu town was built in 1928 after the 1883 flood. There are eight heritage sites located around Kuala Kubu Bharu that can be reached by foot. The clock tower – which commemorates the coronation of King George VI & Queen Elizabeth in 1937 – is a great place to start. Further down the road are the neoclassical Kuala Kubu Bharu Post Office building; fire station built in 1931; shop house Number 1 and 2 on Jalan Dato Tabal (formerly Bowen Street); the Hulu Selangor Traffic Police Headquarters (previously Holy Ascension Church); and lastly the former British District and Land Office constructed in 1931 overlooking the town (now called Bukit Kerajaan).

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#HeritageTips Take photos of A Taste of Life murals (eight spots in total) situated along the heritage trail. These murals were created by ALFA College’s Schools of Visual Communication, Interior Architecture & Architecture Operating hours: 24 hours (daily)

Paragliding in Kuala Kubu Bharu (https://www.facebook.com/KKBParaglidingPark/) Experience a 20- to 30-minute tandem paragliding, where you will take off from the launch pad on Bukit Batu Pahat 1,400 feet above sea level and touch down at Taman Millenium. During the flight, you will get to take in the aerial view of Kuala Kubu Bharu town, Huffaz Lake and the Selangor Dam. #TravelTips Price: MYR350 per person Duration: 1 hour (8 to 15 minutes of flight time) Operating hours: 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (daily). Closed during major public holidays.

Sun Sun Nam Cheong Restaurant Celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2020, Sun Sun Nam Cheong Restaurant stays true to its roots by serving its popular Hainanese chicken chop recipe until today, which is made from chicken steak drizzled with brown onion gravy, served alongside vegetables, chubby fries and eggs topped with sunny side up. Contrary to popular belief, Hainanese chicken chop did not originate from China. The recipe was created by the Chinese from Hainan who migrated to Malaya in the 19th century and worked as cooks for the British families. The Hainanese community eventually localised the western recipes to suit local palate. #FoodTips Address: 8, Jalan Mat Kilau, Pekan Kuala Kubu Bharu, Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor Must-try: Hainanese chicken chop, Hailam mee, Hainanese toast with butter and homemade kaya, including Hainanese coffee Operating hours: 7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (daily). Closed on Mondays.

Cholo Cholo Hot Springs (https://www.instagram.com/ontokontok/) Cholo Cholo Hot Springs was accidentally found by a villager who was surprised that the water in the area was too hot when searching for his buffalo calf. The hot springs consists of a few pools categorised according to the degree of heat. The hot water from the springs is said able to accelerate the healing process and believed to cure ailments like rheumatism and skin irritation. #TravelTips Address: Lot 2107, Kolam Air Panas Hulu Tamu, Batang Kali, Selangor Entrance fee: MYR3 per person, children below 12 years old enter free Operating hours: 24 hours (daily). Closed on Thursdays.


Clockwise from above left: Hainanese chicken chop drizzled with brown onion gravy; several participants of Eat.Travel.Write 11 familiarisation trip having a dip at Cholo Cholo Hot Springs; tandem paragliding is the best way to enjoy the aeriel view of Kuala Kubu Bharu town.

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Above: Exploring Sekinchan in Kuala Selangor on quadricycle. Below: Participants of Eat.Travel.Write 11 familiarisation trip having a go at kuda kepang dance under the guidance of performers.


Kuala Selangor Fleeing from Dutch colonial rule, many Javanese migrated from the Indonesian island of Java to Malaya. From 1880 to 1930, the Javanese population grew and migrated to other states such as Perak and Kedah, while the majority moved to Selangor, populating areas such as Tanjung Karang, Sabak Bernam, Kuala Selangor, Kelang, Banting and Sepang. Interestingly, the members of the Javanese community in Kuala Selangor still converse in Javanese language and practice Javanese customs. These can be clearly seen in the ceremonies and delicacies, especially in the traditional arts for instance kuda kepang, gamelan, wayang kulit, as well as Javanese delicacies like nasi kluban, punten and ketiwol, to name a few. Cycling in the paddy fields (http://visit-sekinchan.com/amg-bicycle-renting-sekinchan.html) Breezing into the ‘land of plenty’, Sekinchan – Selangor’s very own rice bowl – can be explored by either tandem bike or quadricycle, which can be rented from AMG Bicycle Renting. Cycling through the swathes of paddy fields is an experience enjoyed by many. Scenic view of green paddy shoots, scarecrows waving incessantly and white egrets bobbing while locals fishing by the irrigation canals make for a charmingly idyllic scenery. #TravelTips Address: AMG Bicycle Renting, No 8-C, Jalan Menteri, Sekinchan, Selangor Rate: Single Rider MYR10 per hour, Tandem Bicycle MYR16 per hour Operating hours: 5:00 p.m. – midnight (weekdays); 3:00 p.m. – midnight (weekends)

Kuda Kepang Jawa (Flat Horse) Kuda kepang (flat horse) performance originated from West Java in Indonesia. It is a source of entertainment showcasing dancers re-enacting battles for independence against the Dutch. Due to Javanese immigration, this art form made its way to Malaya and adapted for local consumption. This art form was also utilised by one of the nine revered holy men (Wali Songo) responsible in expanding the Islamic faith throughout Java, depicting stories of colonial oppression, expressed through dance and music. When performing kuda kepang, the dancers ride and imitate the horse’s movement according to the music, with the speed of the dancers’ gallop determined by the rhythm and beat. #CultureTips Kuda kepang is made of cowhide and comes in three colours to signify different characters: red, white and grey. The troupe generally involves nine dancers riding the flat horses, five musicians and two Tok Batin (shaman) because the performance incorporates spiritual element. The traditional musical instruments used are angklung, gendang, gong and gamelan (bonang / chaklempong).

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Ratu Kapit Station (https://www.facebook.com/ RatuKapitStation/) Kuih kapit or Dutch love letters is a festive traditional wafer snack made from egg, flour, sugar and coconut milk. It was used by couples to relay love messages and the consumption of the pastry means that the message is taken to heart, thus considered as a romantic pastry. Flavoured fillings and toppings offer a contemporary twist to this much-loved snack. With modern technology, production is now increased using the custom-made electric kuih kapit maker, allowing this snack to be produced efficiently all year round, offline and online.

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#FoodTips Address: Lot 591-A1, Batu 2, Jalan Kuala Selangor-Teluk Intan, Kampung Permatang, Kuala Selangor, Selangor Flavours: Chocolate, peanut butter and durian Topping: Nut, rainbow sprinkles and chocolate rice

Above: Nasi kluban is presented on a dulang and served during special occasions. Bottom left: Kuih kapit with different flavoured fillings and toppings.

Nasi Kluban (Salad Rice) Nasi kluban is commonly served during festivities such as majlis kesyukuran (thanksgiving ceremony) in conjunction with children’s birthday and aqiqah (sacrificing of goat or sheep on the occasion of a child’s birth). It is frequently served during majlis melenggang perut (baby shower) too, usually on the 7th month of the pregnancy. This dish is presented on a dulang (large tray) and typically enjoyed by a group of four to five people. Consisting of rice, grated coconut cooked with blended spices (onion, garlic, chili, ginger and cutcherry or Kempferia galanga), including sliced vegetables, before being served together with salted egg, cucumber and fried fish, nasi kluban signifies unity and camaraderie to promote sharing among family members, friends and fellow villagers. The food is to be divided equally for guest to bring home and share it with family members.

#FoodTips Address: D’ Bagan Awang Restaurant, Jalan Pawang Ghaffar, Kampung Bagan Sungai Buloh, Jeram, Selangor Greens used in the dish: Bean sprouts, winged bean, long bean, king’s salad and Brazillian spinach For baby shower, nasi kluban needs to be paired with seven types of salad or seven types of pickled fruits. The number 7 signifies the 7th month of pregnancy

It is amazing that the local customs and heritage are still being upheld in both Hulu Selangor and Kuala Selangor. The concerted effort among the agencies under the auspices of the state of Selangor in organising this familiarisation trip together with the respective product owners and villagers is truly laudable and appreciated.


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The crystal clear water at Tengah Island.


Destinations

Majestic Johor:

Discovering Johor Bahru, Mersing & Kota Tinggi 075 Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A KERI Images by ED JUNAIDI

Johor’s stunning islands have always been in the radar among those in the know. A short ferry ride brings you to some of the state’s most exclusive islands like Rawa and Tengah, but don’t let their skyhigh accommodation price tags shy you away from exploring other affordable yet equally stunning paradises. Besar Island provides you the vibe similar to Gili Trawangan (minus the partying, of course) without the need for Peninsular Malaysia-based travellers to fly across the ocean, while Pemanggil attracts avid anglers, especially those who love deep sea fishing. And since you’re making a plan to visit the islands off coast Johor, why not stop over at some of the urban centres along the way to make the trip more enriching? Do stop by at Kota Tinggi for its longestablished history and thriving art scene, and of course, Johor Bahru for its vibrancy and modern offerings. Read on to find out some of the places that we suggest you visit when in Johor.


Below:The view of Johor Bahru cityscape from Skyscape, Menara Jland. Middle: B5 Johor Street Market offers an array of stalls selling food and fashion accessories. Bottom: The colourful mural along Lorong Seni highlights the harmonious cultures in Malaysia.

along with buskers’ performances in between. Special craft workshops are also organised weekly. B5 Johor Street Market opens every day from 11:30 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. (midnight on weekends). Swiss-Inn Johor Bahru (www.swissgarden.com/inn-johorbahru) The hotel sits right smack in the city centre with easy access to plenty delicious eateries, tourist attractions and shopping malls, including a golf course. It is also surrounded by key government offices like the Employee Provident Fund (KWSP), Wisma Persekutuan Johor Bahru and the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) Headquarters. The standard rooms are small yet equipped with all the necessary amenities to make your stay pleasant.

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JOHOR BAHRU Skyscape, Menara Jland (www.menarajland.com.my/skyscape) Gaze out across the beautiful cityscape and watch the city comes to life beneath you at the Skyscape, the first ever aerial entertainment space in Johor. The deck, which juts out from the side of the Jland building 149-feet above ground, allows uninterrupted view to as far as the Tebrau Strait on a clear day. But if you have vertigo, Skycape has something other attractions such as a virtual reality zone that let players fight zombies, ride roller-coaster and skiing. Entrance tickets are priced at MYR28 (adult with MyKad), MY18 (child with MyKad) and MYR23 (senior citizen

with MyKad). B5 Johor Street Market (FB: B5 Johor Street Market) Dubbed as the latest hangout place for Johoreans, B5 Johor Street Market occupies 2.35 hectares of an area that used to be called Batu Lima (B5). It serves as a one-stop centre boasting a variety of offerings such as arts and crafts programmes, a box park, retail bazaar housed in a collection of unique train coaches, food trucks and food courts. Try out Johor’s signature dishes under one roof, which include chicken soto, laksa Johor, and borongko. While feasting, be entertained by a daily cultural performance at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.,


The laidback kampung-like vibe at Aseania Beach Resort.

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offering modest accommodation filled with vintage items and indoor game room. The resort sells leisure packages focussing on diving and fishing activities. The all-inclusive packages start at MYR598 (adult) and MYR498 (child) for a three-day two-night stay. Interested visitor may contact Mr. Asyraf Iqbal Abdullah, General Manager, at +6 012 698 9348. The resort, however, is closed between December and March.

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MERSING Travellers need to depart from the Mersing Jetty to reach the pristine islands of Johor such as Aur, Besar, Rawa, Tengah and Pemanggil. Once arrived at Mersing, travellers should head to the Mersing Harbour Centre to buy or collect the boat transfer tickets and pay the fees to enter the Marine Park. This is also the place where you will find operators and hotel representative counters selling various packages to the island; but during peak season, be sure to book well in advance to avoid disappointment. For those who are pressed for time, you may opt for an island-hopping day tour that takes you to the nearby Tengah, Hujung, Besar, Sibu Kukus, Lima and Tinggi islands. Call Mr. Firdaus (+6 018 383 5565) for trip arrangements. Pemanggil Island (FB: lanting Beach Resort Pemanggil Island) Legend has it that the island was

discovered by a man called Abdul Rahman Jumaat in 1923, when he was searching for a new place to settle. As he sailed through what is now known as the South China Sea, he suddenly heard a female’s voice calling him, so loud that it led him to this remote island where he met the one who summoned him: an old lady, who permitted him to live on the island under the condition that he should not bring anyone else except his family to the island. Abdul Rahman agreed and later named the island as Pemanggil (meaning ‘the caller’ in Malay) based on this story. Today, it is said that the seventh generation of Abdul Rahman’s family still remain on the island, which is now home to six villages with less than 50 inhabitants. There are basic facilities too like clinic, police station, and primary school; however, many youths have moved out to Mersing and beyond to pursue higher education. There is also a resort called Lanting Beach Resort

Diving and Snorkelling in Johor Islands Only thirty minutes by boat from Mersing, Besar Island (formerly called Pulau Babi Besar) is an idyllic tropical hideaway blessed with powdery white beaches and lush green jungle. Snorkelling excursion is perhaps the best way to explore the area since Besar and its surrounding islands are collectively gazetted as a marine park, so expect diverse underwater species, for instance giant cockles that have a lifespan of up to 70 years! There are two popular snorkelling spots within the area namely Besar Field and Tengah Island. Rates begin at MYR70 for a two-hour-and-a-half trip. As for diving, there are numerous world class diving sites in proximity to Mersing that divers should explore, ranging from Besar and Pemanggil to Rawa and Tengah islands. However, the most prominent sites are the first underwater Royal Post Box, which lets divers deliver a waterproof letter while being underwater, and the first man-made coral garden in Malaysia called Tunku Laksamana Corals Garden. Both sites are located at Mensirip Island, a 45-minute boat ride from Mersing jetty. Divers are recommended to contact certified dive operators such as LayPark Pulau on Besar Island for bookings. Contact Mr. Kelana (+6 019 779 2589), Mr. Ijat (+6 019 322 9108) or Mr. Hans (+6 019 753 3317).


Aseania Beach Resort, Besar Island (www.aseaniapulaubesar.com) This resort boasts 47 air-conditioned chalets set in a laidback kampung-like atmosphere. Its swimming pool, along with jacuzzi, proves to be the favourite playground among its guests, while those who prefer to participate in funfilled group activities can opt for beach volleyball and beach futsal. At night, pick a spot to stargaze and devour on scrumptious barbecue spread prepared by the resort’s talented in-house culinary team. Batu Batu Resort, Tengah Island (www.batubatu.com.my) Batu Batu is the epitome of barefoot luxury guided by prevalent ecofriendly mindset through and through. Nestling in Tengah Island, the resort is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and azure blue ocean. The best part? You don’t have to share the sand with the crowds! There are 22 sustainable villas made from tropical hardwood that are perfect for tropical island paradise seekers. Outside of the resort, guests can find a PADI diving centre, including a non-profit biodiversity management initiative called Tengah Island Conservation (TIC), which specialises in environmental conservation and education through research, special projects, and community outreach programmes. Swing by TIC with your friends and family to learn how this organisation conserves, protects and regenerates sea turtle population and other marine life. Rawa Island Resort, Rawa Island (rawaislandresort.com) Powdery, sun-baked sand with majestic peacocks roaming freely on the ground, Rawa Island Resort is an idyllic tropical hideaway, perfect for couples, families and even solo guests to escape from the stress of city life. Plenty of relaxing activities are available on the island for guests to enjoy, which include catching the sunrise from the nearby hill, snorkelling in the warm waters of the South China Sea, going down

the thrill-inducing slides, or simply lounging lazily with a fresh coconut water in hand at sunset. In whichever way you plan to indulge, the resort brings you to a complete bliss. Rawa Island Resort is situated within the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park archipelago and accessible using a thirty-minute boat ride from Mersing Jetty. It boasts 77 rooms that are cleverly designed to blend with the natural landscape. Room rates here start at MYR689 per night, while meal packages start at MYR230 per adult per night and MYR175 per child per night. The resort also offers return boat transfers from Mersing Jetty that costs MYR100 per person. There is a special discount available for every room booked between September and November, but do take note that there is the rule of two-night minimum stay imposed when staying here. Keropok Haji Puteh, Mersing Keropok lekor (a snack made from ground fish and sago floor) is a specialty in the east coast region of Peninsular Malaysia, particularly Terengganu. But do you know that the word lekor is a Terengganu dialect that is derived from the Malay word, lingkar, which describes its elongated coiled shape? Interestingly, keropok lekor is common along the coast of Mersing as well. Head to the 50-year-old shop called Keropok Haji Puteh at Jalan Abdullah, which uses only the freshest herring in the production of keropok lekor to maintain its sweetness. Top: A worker at Keropok Haji Puteh with keropok lekor made fresh at the shop. Middle: Bigfoot Industries Enterprise conducts surf lessons for both adults and children at Pantai Tanjung Buluh in Kota Tinggi. Bottom: The blissful atmosphere of a beach on one of Johor’s islands during sunset Previous Page: The view of the pristine white beach fronting Rawa Island Resort and its lush surroundings.

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harmonious cultures in Malaysia. You might just spot a familiar face on the wall (hint: a popular female doctor) so if you are a fan, be sure to come here and take a picture or two. The project is helmed by Wall Craft Deco Art and Kota Tinggi city government.

Belungkor Adventure brings visitors around a rich tidal mangrove ecosystem.

KOTA TINGGI Kota Tinggi Museum The museum has recently reopened after being closed for almost six years for upgrading, and now becomes the latest attraction in Kota Tinggi. It recounts the evolution of Johor kingdom from the beginning when Sultan Alauddin Riayat Syah II founded the Old Johor government. Highlights of the museum include the exhibition on artefacts found from various shipwrecks and the incredible collection of pre-modern combat weaponries. In fact, this museum has Meriam Cetbang (a cannon from the Majapahit era) in the most complete form found throughout the region. The museum opens every day except Friday from 9:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Entrance is free. Balai Kota 1528 Initially a police station built in 1920 by the British, this building has been given a new life in 2020 when the Johor government converts it into a tourism information centre called Balai Kota 1528 to commemorate the beginning of Johor Lama era. Besides dispensing information concerning Kota Tinggi and the Johor Sultanate, visitors get to enjoy a variety of family-friendly offerings such as an open-air bazaar and a dazzling light installation space. On top of these, if you were a passionate coin collector (unlike the scammers encountered on social media platforms), be sure to check the small but no less impressive exhibition of old coins here.

Pantai Tanjung Buluh The monsoon season has always seen Malaysians shy away from the ocean, but who knew that for avid local surfers, it is the most exciting time of the year. Waves are ferocious during this period, which lasts from November until March, turning the ocean into a thrilling playground. In recent years, Kota Tinggi has become a popular destination for surfers, including Pantai Tanjung Buluh. In fact, there is an annual international surf challenge organised by Bigfoot Industries Enterprise, where surfers from as far as United States come to ride the waves. The same operator also conducts surfing lessons for both children and adults with rates starting at MYR100 per person. Wetland Kampung Linting, Tanjung Surat Those who appreciate nature should consider joining a community-based tour at Wetland Kampung Linting organised by Belungkor Adventure, which brings travellers around a rich, undisturbed tidal mangrove ecosystem. But unlike the typical mangrove tour, this tour includes a visit to nearby fishing villages for travellers to get a taste of the kampung lifestyle. Expect kompang and silat performances, apart from savouring local dishes. If you’re in luck, you may also witness sea cucumber and horseshoe crab up close! Culminate the tour at Restoran Asam Pedas Tanjung Belungkor that serves up – you guessed it right – the most lip-smacking asam pedas that could make other competing restaurateurs a run for their money. This tour could last for up to two hours; for arrangements, contact Tok Amin (+6 010 413 5025).

Firefly River Cruise Enjoy a relaxing cruise along the Johor river in Kota Tinggi as thousands of fireflies illuminate the night and filled the spaces between the trees. It is said that the best time to watch these luminous insects is right after dusk, especially after the rain stops. The tour is priced at MYR25 per person, and tickets can be bought online or at Balai Kota 1528.

Lotus Desaru Beach Resort & Spa (lotusdesaru.com) It’s easy to mistake the resort for a theme park because from the outside, the building resembles a huge, colourful fairy-tale castle. Inside, a small bird sanctuary near the lobby keeps young guests entertained while the parents check in. The resort boasts 700 comfortable and incredibly spacious units, each come with a separate lounge and dining area, a kitchenette, and a private bathroom. The breakfast buffet is superb with a vast spread of delicacies to accommodate discerning palates. Children has expansive space to run around, but if that is not enough, the Splash area complete with water slides, lazy river and pool will keep them busy. Adult guests, on the other hand, may find their bliss at the designated spa. Create more unforgettable memories by experiencing fun water sport activities by the hotel’s beach.

Kota Tinggi Mural Paintings @ Lorong Seni Get your camera ready and strike a pose in front of colourful murals along Lorong Seni that primarily highlights on the

Gaya Travel Magazine team members express our heartfelt gratitude to Tourism Johor for organising the trip to Johor Bahru, Johor islands, Mersing and Kota Tinggi.


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The breathtaking view from Terengganu Drawbridge’s skybridge.


Destinations

Exploring the Land and Sea in Terengganu Te x t b y M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J E L A N I Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI & A Z WA N A L I

After the Malaysian government finally eases the Movement Control Order (MCO) to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country and permits interstate travel to strengthen the economy again, according to news report based on a study in April 2020 by Tourism Malaysia, the state of Terengganu has been receiving the highest number of domestic tourist arrivals. The high number of compliance rate towards COVID-19’s standard operating procedures (SOP) is cited as among the reasons why most travellers feel confident and safe to visit this beautiful state. With this in mind, Gaya Travel team and a group of social media influencers went to Terengganu to quench our wanderlust and without doubt, with so much to offer, we only wish we could have stayed in the state longer! Read on to follow some of the gems that we have visited during our four-day-three-night journey‌

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MARANG Pinehill Garden (facebook.com/sallehmira) Thanks to social media, this place located on top of a hill has been gaining fame due to its breathtaking scenery. It is actually a private property where its owner spends time gardening as hobby but now turned into a favourite spot for travellers. Among the fruits planted here are grapes, passionfruit, and Fuji apples. Since the garden is private property, travellers are advised to always obey the rules and regulations set by its owner when being here. No entry charge is required. Lembah Durian, Kampung Lubuk Batu Kampung Lubuk Batu is known as Lembah Durian (which means ‘Durian Valley’) where more than 50 durian farms that churn out various durian grades, including Musang King, are based here. There are plans for homestays to be opened up within the valley so that travellers can overnight at the durian farms! It is recommended that travellers stop by at a local restaurant and savour a bowl of refreshing durian cendol to beat the heat! Dataran Batu Putih (https://www.facebook.com/ dataranbatuputih) To boost the local economy, 16 families initiated a market place at Dataran Batu Putih where travellers get to see rows of stalls selling local products ranging from delicacies like nisan nira (sugar taken from coconut blossom) and craft products, besides enjoying traditional performances and games. But the highlight of the place is the floating market that can be experienced every Friday and Saturday.

Squid-Jigging As a state located on Peninsular Malaysia’s East Coast, one of Terengganu’s main economic drivers is the fishing industry, part of which is the squid-jigging activity that normally begins at dusk and ends in the early morning; however, travellers can choose to end the activity earlier. To be honest, squid jigging can be challenging: most of our team members succumbed to seasickness since the water in the middle of the sea felt choppy when the boat stops, while at the same time we tried hard to remain patient for the squid to take the bait. Nevertheless, squid-jigging is a memorable experience, especially for those who eventually managed to catch squids as big as an adult’s arm! Oh, do take the chance to chat with the friendly boatmen because they sure have a lot of stories to tell!

Snorkelling and kayaking are popular but other recommended activities travellers should do are hiking up to Bukit Singa (‘Lion Hill’) where travellers can enjoy a unique view of a huge rock formation that resembles a lion, and having a morning walk to the lighthouse or Berakit to feast their eyes on the stunning views of Pulau Kapas from other angles. Good to know: Pulau Kapas is best to visit between April to August. Travellers who wish to experience this island can make their booking from the respective resorts or tour operators near Marang Jetty, which also entertain walk-ins.

Travellers who wish to experience squid-jigging can contact Marang District Fishermen Association at +6 019 929 6066 (Mr Sulong) or Taman Tamadun Islam at +6 09 627 8888.

Kampung Jenang Kampung Jenang is a small, quaint village but has a lot to offer for travellers who wish to be immersed in the villagers’ laidback and humble lifestyle while carrying on their daily routines like finding lokan (a type of freshwater clam), producing nisan nira and weaving nipa palm leaves to be sold as sustainable traditional attaps.

Pulau Kapas Pulau Kapas (meaning ‘Cotton Island’) is known for its white, sandy beaches that give the island its name. It is a popular destination that can be reached around 15 to 20 minutes by speed boat from Marang jetty. There are a few resorts and campsites providing travellers accommodation options depending on their budget and comfort. But more importantly, travellers can look forward to its underwater haven with colourful corals and types of fish that keeps people coming to this lovely island.

Big BEE Honey (https://www.facebook.com/ bigbeehoney) More than just a place where travellers can buy only-authentic bee honey, Big Bee Honey functions is educational because it teaches travellers everything about bees via its own mini gallery. Travellers should also take the opportunity to visit the apiary behind the building and taste different types of freshfrom-the-nest honey such as wild bee honey, tualang honey and kelulut honey.


Clockwise from top, left: Mohd Salleh showing grapes planted at his Pinehill Garden; mouth-watering durian cendol that can be savoured in Kampung Lubuk Batu; one of the participants, Adela Roslan, showing off her catch-of-the-day; one of the boats at Dataran Batu Putih floating market.

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An arresting view from the peak of Bukit Singa on Pulau Kapas.

KUALA TERENGGANU Terengganu Drawbridge (http://www.terengganudrawbridge.com.my/) This 638-metre bascule bridge is the first tower drawbridge in Southeast Asia. It connects Muara Selatan (South Bank) near Kuala Terengganu city centre and Muara Utara (North Bank) in Seberang Takir. Though the bridge is best witnessed from afar so that travellers can admire its stunning design and architecture especially at night as the bridge will be lit up with multicoloured lights, travellers are also recommended to go up to the drawbridge’s sky bridge to access the Sky Terrace where they can walk on the transparent glass floor that is open to the bridge and water down below. Furthermore, from the 15th floor, travellers get to enjoy the breathtaking view of South China

Sea, Terengganu River and parts of Kuala Terengganu. Opened since August 2019, the bridge has since become one of Terengganu’s most iconic attractions to local and international travellers alike. Tokmi Selera Kampung (https://www.facebook.com/TokmiSeleraKampung/) Best visited during lunch, the restaurant serves up a myriad of popular local dishes, including patin tempoyak, ikan keli belada, ikan kerisi goreng sumbat, sayur lemak pucuk paku, kari kambing, gulai itik, and the list goes on. It is located not far from the Terengganu Drawbridge, hence an ideal choice for lunch when travellers are in the area.


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Clockwise from left: Social media influencers Khalishan Alias and Fahmi Esmail donning traditional Malay attire at Lambo Sari; one of the participants, Mohd Shahril Fawzy, trying his hand at catching lokan in Kampung Jenang; delicious nasi mandy that can be enjoyed at Taman Tamadun Islam.

Lambo Sari (https://www.facebook.com/LamboSariTerengganu) Opened since 2019, Lambo Sari is an interactive hub where travellers can learn about Terengganu art and culture in greater detail, including the opportunity to participate in various cultural activities like donning traditional attires, colouring batik, cracking coconuts, playing traditional games, and more! Those who wish to experience this can contact Sarinah Said from Homestay Teluk Ketapang at +6 019 943 8979. Pasar Payang For the people of Terengganu, Pasar Payang is an institution that has been in existence since 1968. This iconic market is now housed in a new building to allow both local merchants and travellers to do business in a safer and more comfortable

environment. Expect to be amazed and even buy the various items on sale such as local delicacies, houseware, fabrics, souvenirs, and more. Taman Tamadun Islam (https://www.tti.com.my/) Taman Tamadun Islam (‘Islamic Civilisations Park’) is an edutainment complex showcasing the replicas of the 23 world’s most prominent Islamic monuments, including the bedazzling Crystal Mosque, Terengganu’s own pride. Besides admiring the replicas, travellers should also try the park’s delicious nasi mandy (steamed rice served alongside roasted chicken, lamb or other meat that have been marinated with special blend of spices) at B’beteng Restaurant for only MYR12.90 (Chicken) and MYR16.90 (Lamb) per set!


A view of Pulau Kapas from another side.

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T HE P HILOSOP HY behind

TERENGGANU WO ODCARVINGS Te x t b y A Z M I A B D U LL A H

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Among the oldest professions practiced by the people of Terengganu are woodcarving and carpentry. Terengganu wood artisans are known for their skills not only in making beautiful wood carvings but also in the building of boats and traditional houses without using nails. In traditional homes, woodcarved ventilation panels are placed above doors and windows, adding aesthetic value. Such technology enables the interior of the homes to remain cool when it is hot outside and thermally comfortable during inclement tropical weather. From the entire house down to its beams, hallways, ornate doors, window shutters and furniture, the exquisite and brilliant wood craftsmanship can even be found on beds, jewelry boxes, mirror frames, and sofas. The wood carvers today draw inspirations from Islamic designs, plants and nature, and interpret their work by carving intricate flowery motifs, Quranic verses and Islamic geometrical designs, shunning depictions of animals or humans. However, some of these motifs have existed for hundreds of years, even before the pre-Islamic era and served as visual interpretations of legends and myths. Originally, each motif was derived from a legend or folklore, but with the advent of Islam, the interpretation of the motifs has been changed to suit the faith. An excellent destination for cultural enthusiasts to witness Terengganu woodcarving is Desa Ukiran Kayu (Woodcarving Village) in Kampung Raja, Besut (http://mdb.terengganu.gov.my/en/visitors/places-interest/desaukiran-kayu), which holds workshops and classes for budding woodcarvers, thus become a centre for vocational excellence. Not only are travellers able to see woodcarvers at work, they can appreciate the wooden structures found throughout the Village too, all built in traditional Terengganu Malay architecture. Today, there is an increasing awareness among the people, especially the elites, to preserve this heritage and adorn their homes, including corporate offices, government departments, universities, hotels and resorts, with traditional Malay woodcrafts as part of cultural revival.


Gaya Special Feature: Terengganu

The History of Woodcarving There are not many early historical records relating to woodcarving. But the archeological remains from the Neolithic age show evidence of carvings on potteries, bracelets, pitchers and crockeries. In the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang and Kedah, there are generations of carvers’ who are still influenced by Langkasuka motifs and designs that grace the mosques, gazebos, and palaces, especially in the Pattani region of Southern Thailand. The Malay traditional woodcarving is one of the oldest works of art. But because wood is a material with short lifespan, it is rare to find wood-based artefacts that last for thousands of years. There are however a few archaelogical remains of woodcarving that can be traced, for instance an old keris, antique crockery, ancient palaces, and mosques that withstood the test of time. The Philosophy The philosophy behind traditional woodcarving revolves around the motifs that possess priceless aesthetic value conveyed in intricate artforms. The design motifs created are not only meant to be appreciated as beautiful showpieces, but they resonate with symbolic meanings as well to connote the Malay community’s reverence towards virtues such as being gracious, cultured and upright. Traditional wood carving motifs are often associated with the carvers, their fine workmanship, the purpose of the carving, creativity and symbolic underpinnings. The merits of woodcarving go beyond the surface. Beneath the layers of purpose, workmanship, skills, creativity and symbols, lies the identity of the Malay carver. The motifs on a woodcarving signify the attributes of the Malay character

through tangible forms, normally based upon visual expressions, sosiocultural background and community’s beliefs. The meanings, when unravelled, uphold the philosophy behind the carvings. An example of the philosophy that refers to the qualities of the Malay character can be found in statements such as ‘A Sprouting Attribute’, ‘An Attribute Full Of Secrecy’, ‘Sharp Enough But Not Thrusting The Enemy’, and ‘The Circumference That Collaborates Friendship’. 1. An Expression of Devotion The philosophical meaning of ‘A Sprouting Attribute’ symbolises the Malay community’s devotion in accepting Islam as the way of life. Visually, the motifs on the carvings are sourced based on the carver’s own perception and expression, depicted by sprouting motifs like seedlings or flowers to mean that all humans are related and come from a single source created by Allah. Similarly, the philosophy ‘An Attribute Full of Secrecy’ refers to the fact that all motifs on the woodcarving starts from a hidden base point, implying that the might of Allah is always shrouded in secrecy from humans because their minds will never be able to fathom the greatness of the Creator. 2. An Expression of Peace The philosophical meaning of ‘Sharp Enough But Not Thrusting The Enemy’ relates to the Malays’ inclination towards peace. The sharp woodcarving motifs tend to avoid touching or colliding with each other, reflecting the Malays’ desire for peace and diplomacy, yet at the same time always have their weapons sharp and ready. 3. An Expression of Togetherness The philosophical meaning behind ‘The Circumference That Collaborates Friendship’ is the manifestation of togetherness. The woodcarving motifs are designed in a circumference and in stacks to reflect harmony and consensus. It reflects a way of life that is always collaborative and supportive towards each other, resulting in peace and togetherness, strengthening the bond within members of the

community. 4. An Expression of Loyalty The patrons to the woodcarvers in a traditional Malay community were usually monarchs and aristrocrats. In most cases, the woodcarvings found at the palaces were commissioned by royalty. The woodcarvers appointed by the royal palace generally hold higher status and demonstrated their loyalty, commitment, dedication and appreciation through their vocation, done to the best of their abilities. 5. An Expression of Tenderness The expression of tenderness of the Malay character is revealed through rhythmic motifs; the contortions and flows depicted in the curves of the leaves and motifs mean graciousness and endearment, considered part of the Malay character. 6. An Expression of Refinement Besides functionality, the best woodcarving products lie in their aesthetics. But achieving the highest aesthetic standards requires creativity, knowledge, skills and acumen. The woodcarver should be able to elegantly portray his emotions through every design and motif. Conclusion One can learn about the Malay character from the motifs of the traditional woodcarving, especially in terms of kinship, unity and togetherness, all expressed through the motifs. Carvers whose works contain philosophies representing the attributes of the Malay character through intricate motifs tend to produce woodcarvings that are high in aesthetic value and deep in meaning. Text is based from the book ‘The Expression of Malay Identity Behind Traditional Wood Carving’ (‘Ekspresi Keperibadian Melayu Di Sebalik Ukiran Kayu Tradisional’) by Izani bin Mat Il, Faculty of Art, Computing & Creative Industry, Sultan Idris Education University (UPSI).

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Hotels & Resorts

ANANTARA Desaru Coast Resort & Villas Brings Authentic Luxury to Malaysia’s Golden Shores Te x t b y J U H A N K A M A R U D D I N I m a g e s b y A N A N TA R A D E S A R U C O A S T R E S O R T & V I L L A S

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Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas (www.anantara.com/en/desaru-coast) in Johor is a high-end resort development set amidst lush tropical vegetation located along a pristine shoreline facing the South China Sea. This property signifies Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas’ first venture in Malaysia. When news concerning the opening of Anantara in Desaru Coast broke five years ago, the Malaysian tourism and travel industry was abuzz with excitement because many concur that its presence puts the destination on the international luxury travel map. Incidentally, this property is the only one in Desaru Coast that has direct access to the beach. Though Gaya Travel Magazine team members have been hearing the name ‘Anantara’ for almost two decades, it was only in 2020 that we finally experience the brand. We have been wondering what the name signifies since it sounds evocatively

sensuous, akin to an alluringly exotic land faraway. As it turns out, the name refers to a world class hospitality group that first started operating in Thailand’s royal town, Hua Hin, back in 2001. Taken from Sanskrit, the name means ‘without end’ to connote freedom, movement, and harmony. The word also refers to a jar full of fresh water that Thais of the past would leave outside their homes to slake their thirst and extended to all passing travellers as refreshment. The symbol for that jar can be spotted on Anantara’s emblem to represent welcoming embrace and rejuvenation.


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Good to know:

Due to COVID-19 concerns, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas takes the safety protocols seriously by assigning a dedicated ‘Guest Guardian’ who is responsible for internal audits based on stringent guidelines. Building on Anantara’s existing holistic 360-degree approach, the guidelines extend beyond guest areas to the back of house operations that include supply chain deliveries, culinary preparation and housekeeping procedures. The resort also enhances its hygiene measures - for example the implementation of electrostatic spray technology - to protect guests’ health and wellbeing throughout their stay.

Contemporarily elegant Singapore-based architect firm WOW Architects and Warner Wong Design were entrusted to develop the resort’s architecture, while Environment Design Consultants from Malaysia did the interiors. Sumptuous but hardly aloof, Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas is a subliminal sanctuary that is inviting, pragmatic and cosy. The entire property, which is intimate in scale and proportion, alludes to the layout of a traditional Malay settlement composed of edifices adorned with indigenous


materials and woven textiles, Malaysian wicker elements, and silhouettes of traditional Malay crafts. The spirit of its location emanates throughout the property, characterised by the generous employment of highly visible home-grown design cues, motifs and accents that project authentic luxury honed by local expertise. Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas features 90 deluxe guestrooms housed in low-rise structure overlooking the gardens, lagoon and ocean; including 13 stand-alone luxury one- and two-bedroom two-storey pool villas surrounding the lagoon. These pool villas are built in Malay vernacular to suit Malaysia’s climate, expressed in the form of floor-toceiling windows; slanted carved wooden panels; louvres and vents placed directly under the roof; and wide-open doors for thermal comfort. Each of the resort’s accommodation unit is decidedly high-end in its use of space and furnishing, particularly the expansive balcony and hardwood flooring that is a joy to walk on. As a matter of fact, each end corner guestroom – for instance Room 301 – comes with an inviting lounge swing that accommodates two persons, ideal for guests to cradle on and dream away. The interiors are replete with wood, creating an intimate atmosphere that is unmistakably tropical to remind guests that they are in South East Asia. The towels in the rooms are oversized, highly absorbent, fluffy, and plenty, which should please even the most discerning germaphobes. The bathtub is huge and deep, complete with water-resistant neck rest and ‘The essence of Anantara spa’ amenities, notably bath salts. After soaking themselves in the tub, guests should rinse under the strongpressured rain shower that mimics an uplifting precipitation. Apart from the deluxe guestrooms and two-storey pool villas, guests have the choice to stay at any of the three- and four-bedroom pool villas surrounded by lush foliage for utmost privacy, closer to the beachfront and the sea. Each of these villas spans between from 3,100 and 6,426 feet squared in size; comes with infinity pool and accompanying spacious decks; indoor-outdoor living space that lets in ample natural light and ocean breeze through floor-to-ceiling windows; bright en-suite bedrooms; open-planned dining and lounge areas; full kitchen with chef; and butler. These villas, which are part of an integral project called Anantara Desaru Coast Residences (www.anantaradesaru-residences. com), can be purchased at the starting price of MYR7.5 million, and the lucky owners of these villas earn themselves exclusive access to Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas’ five-star amenities since the resort manages and services the residences as well. Dining options Dining at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas is a gastronomic nod to fresh coastal dining. The resort’s all-day

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dining restaurant, Turmeric, serves authentic local Malaysian fare and mouth-watering Thai, Chinese and international cuisine. The menu includes the iconic nasi lemak consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk laced with fragrant pandan leaves, served together with fried anchovies, sliced cucumbers, fried horse mackerel and sweet chili sauce on the side. Another signature dish guests should try is otak-otak (grilled Malaysian fish cakes served in a banana leaf ). Another outlet that guests should not miss is the resort’s signature al fresco beachfront restaurant named Sea.Fire. Salt., which specialises in succulent grilled seafood and steaks served beachside, poolside, or next to the show kitchen where diners can marvel at the chefs in action as they demonstrate their culinary flair. At the same time, guests can nibble on snacks by the infinity pool at the Infinity Poolside bar adjacent to Sea.Fire.Salt while taking in the chic beachside atmosphere. Talking about the resort’s infinity pool, Gaya Travel Magazine team rates it as one of the best spots for tuning in to the sound of waves and natural surroundings. In addition, guests are sure to be impressed by the elevated Observatory Bar, which opens up to the 360-degree view of Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas’ lush landscape and the ocean while indulging in the extensive selection of top vintages and spirits, including imported cigars.


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Activities to keep guests occupied Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas boasts two refreshing freshwater swimming pools as substitutes to the azure ocean. Since Anantara Desaru Coast & Villas faces east, the resort is a boon for sunrise-chasers. When staying at the resort, children and teenagers alike can fill their day by playing the latest high-tech games or participate in cross-cultural educational activities at the respective Kids and Teens Clubs. Moreover, guests are invited to explore the resort’s grounds by cycling, including the entire Desaru Coast area if they are up to it. An adventure water park and waterfront retail village are nearby in case guests intend to make the most of their Desaru Coast experience. Anantara Spa – the very first Anantara Spa to open in Malaysia, which has just been declared as Malaysia’s Best Resort Spa 2020 during the 6th World Spa Awards – is a sensual oasis that contains lush landscaped gardens, six treatment rooms with en-suite bathroom, shower facilities, and a homely relaxation area. The spa has a boutique too, which retails 100% natural products from Italian professional beauty care provider Marzia Clinic, ethical beauty brand Comfort Zone, and locally sourced Borneo

Addict. Drawing upon Thailand’s wellness inspirations and indigenous therapeutic ingredients, the spa’s treatments range from massages, body scrubs and wraps, to facials and bathing rituals. Guests may even request for the treatments to be done within the comfort of their own rooms or by the poolside. The most popular treatment is the Anantara Signature, dispensed in the form of a 90-minute ‘Roots of Malaysia Massage’ ritual specially formulated for Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas, which merges Malay healing traditions and techniques using ingredients that include lemongrass, pandan leaves, coconut, kaffir lime and ginger, among others. The treatment begins with a foot soak and guided breathing techniques to relax the body, followed by full body palm work combined with light foot pressure points and passive stretching. One treatment that meets the needs of avid golfers is the 120-minute Golfers’ Remedial Massage to target the sore areas resulting from repeat movements by applying firm pressures to release tension and stimulate blood circulation. Since a day out on the greens can lead to sun and burnt skin, including aching muscles, this post-game treatment lets golfers recuperate via a massage, followed


by a calming body wrap that restores moisture and enriches the body.

Els; and Valley Course, an 18-hole golf course designed in collaboration with another major champion, Vijay Singh.

Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas’ well-appointed health and fitness centre promises wellness fanatics and adrenaline junkies the opportunity to maintain or increase their fitness level and physical performance as well.

Conclusion Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas lives up to expectations as a truly refined getaway characterised by plush surroundings, scrumptious meals and bespoke experiences that incorporates ambiences and indulgences specific to the place yet rooted in impeccable service culture derived from the brand’s birthplace, making it a must-stay for all aesthetes and epicureans alike…

Conversely, outdoorsy and adventurous guests should partake in activities made available by Dash Outdoor (https://www. dashoutdoors.com.my/), the certified provider of various waterbased and outdoor activities such as kayaking, jet-skiing, surfing, stand up paddle-boarding and zorbing for the entire Desaru Coast. Among the most popular is the banana boat, which offers fun-filled overdrenched adrenalin rush, suitable for varying age groups. Another memorable activity is the mangrove tour on jet-skis to intimately explore Desaru’s intriguing biodiversity. Once guests are done with the sea, they can shift their attention to the land by taking the excursion to Desaru Fruit Farm (www.dff.world), a 15-minute ride away from the resort. This award-winning 100-acre farm cultivates over 100 types of tropical fruits such as rose apple, jackfruit, carambola, great hog plum, durian and more, thus become the best place for travellers to learn about local fruits and harvest them. Desaru Fruit Farm offers eye-opening guided tours that fascinate both adults and children. After the tour, guests are treated to a lavish fruit buffet spread. The farm also prepares fruit-based fusion dishes upon request, for example sweet and sour tom yam in coconut and spicy prawns cooked with pineapple. Back at the resort, armed with knowledge relating to local fruits and flavours obtained from Desaru Fruit Farm, guests should immediately join the Spice Spoons cooking class to try their hands at creating local or regional dishes for lunch under the guidance of the attentive chef. Those dishes are to be eventually consumed by the guests themselves, who are bound to take pride in their own ability to prepare those dishes superbly as long as they follow the chef ’s instructions step-by-step. On the other hand, hardcore foodies can ask the resort to arrange for them food tours around Johor Bahru in the quest for popular local delicacies. Another highlight for guests staying at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas is the chance to golf at The Els Club Desaru Coast, renowned for its two beautifully manicured courses featuring 45 holes in total: Ocean Course, a 27-hole golf course designed by four-time major champion, Ernie

Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas can be reached via a 45-minute drive from Malaysia’s Senai International Airport ( JHB) or a two-hour drive from Singapore. Alternatively, travellers from Singapore can travel to Desaru Coast by ferry, followed by a short drive. Rates at Anantara Desaru Coast Resort & Villas start from USD 222 per room per night, inclusive of breakfast; rates exclude six percent Sales Service Tax. For further information or to make a reservation, contact +60 7 8280 888 or desaru@anantara.com. 097


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Layan Makan Jerrr , rancangan terbaharu terbitan Unit Media Sosial RTM yang berkonsepkan vlog makan (foodvlog) santai memaparkan makanan menarik yang harus dicuba di seluruh Malaysia. Setiap episod, akan mengetengahkan pelbagai menu di suatu lokasi seperti makanan menarik di Port Dickson dan Melaka. Kami juga berkongsi restoran dan menu yang harus dicuba di restoran tersebut seperti Nasi Ganja Lamb Shank di Restoran Nasi Dulang Daun Pisang Bangi, Kuih Seri Muka Durian di Warung Pak Meed Sentul, Sup Gearbox di Kedai Kopi Haji Zul Wangsa Maju dan pelbagai lagi. Program yang dihoskan oleh Ariey Jojo ini bersiaran di laman Facebook RTM – Radio Televisyen Malaysia setiap Sabtu pukul 4 petang. Layan Makan Jerr juga boleh juga ditonton di saluran Youtube Radio Televisyen Malaysia dan laman web Myklik RTM. RTM – Radio Televisyen Malaysia

rtm_malaysia

Radio Televisyen Malaysia

www.rtm.gov.my


Hotels & Resorts

Experiencing Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka & Hotel Seri Malaysia Port Dickson Te x t & I m a g e s b y MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI

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After more than 20 years, Hotel Seri Malaysia is an iconic treasure in Malaysia’s tourism and hospitality industry as a brand that is well-reflect the authenticity and warmth of Malaysian hospitality. With 21 hotel branches totalling over two thousand hotel rooms spread across almost every state in the country except Kelantan and Sabah, Hotel Seri Malaysia remains the largest hotel chain in Malaysia. Gaya Travel Magazine team members, together with a group of bloggers and social media influencers, explored the historical city of Melaka while staying at Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka. The hotel is located in Ayer Keroh, around one kilometre away from Ayer Keroh toll exit. Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka has 99 rooms that are categorised into standard queen, standard twin, deluxe, family room, and suite. One of the strengths of this valuefor-money hotel is the spaciousness of its rooms, which is sufficiently large. All rooms are air-conditioned and equipped with water heater for showering, safedeposit box, television and complimentary tea- and coffee-making facilities. Other perks when staying at the hotel include free Wi-Fi connectivity, swimming pool (separate pool for children), round-the-clock reception, Muslim prayer room and ample parking space. Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka has six meeting rooms, including one ballroom that can cater up to 300 persons. The meeting rooms can also be arranged into several different set-ups such as classroom, u-shape, theatre, boardroom or roundtable. As much as the hotel is enjoyable for leisure staycation, this feature is definitely convenient for business travellers too.


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The network of Seri Malaysia hotel chain is also renowned for serving delectable food at its respective restaurants, mainly on local favourites. With regard to Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka, its all-day dining restaurant is named Jonker Café. Thanks to Jonker Café’s Chef Rizuwan, we had the privilege of not only indulging in, but also learn about,several of the restaurant’s signatures. One of them is Asam Pedas Melaka, well-loved for its spicy and sour taste with ingredients that include mackerel, red onion, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, curry powder, and tamarind juice. Ayam Kapitan, a Peranakan dish, is also worth trying. This exquisite dish is made up of chicken, ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, dried chillies, and bunga kantan (torch ginger), among others. For dessert, Serabai Seri Melaka, which is best served with toppings like gula merah (palm sugar syrup) and pandan, comes highly recommended. Its ingredients comprise rice flour, cooked rice, coconut milk, yeast, sugar, salt, and water. Since COVID-19 still daunts the tourism industry, Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka consistently keeps updating its standard operating procedures (SOP) and follow the guidelines suggested by the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MoTAC) so that travellers can enjoy their stay with peace of mind. As we entered our rooms, we were satisfied to find stickers on the doors informing us that our rooms have been fully sanitised! Located around 30 minutes from city centre, Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka is within reach to well-known attractions in Ayer Keroh such as Butterfly Park, Melaka Zoo, Crocodile Park, Mini Malaysia Park and Melaka Wonderland. On top of the mentioned places, guests of Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka can easily pay a visit to Karyaneka, which lies next to the hotel. More than just a centre where travellers can buy local crafts like batik and wooden bags, including playing traditional games, the place also organises interactive cultural activities that travellers can partake, for instance batik-colouring, learning how to play gasing (top-spinning), and more. After a day of roaming around Melaka city to experience its long list of delights, we recommend that travellers enjoy Melaka at night by taking the Melaka River Cruise, a must when being in the destination. Travellers are bound to find the cruise romantic as it meanders along Melaka River, passing by colourfully illuminated heritage buildings and murals along the way.


Another way to enjoy Melaka is to relish delectable delicacies at Makan Avenue in Kampung Hulu, particularly its satisfying cendol, besides other dishes. This frosty dessert is made from shaved frozen coconut milk as its main ingredient is best consumed with durian as its topping, but travellers can even try it with other local fruits such as mango, dragon fruit, longan, and pineapple too. This place is located next to Melaka River, therefore it is safe to say that the culinary experience here is truly gratifying with good food, good view and good music performed by a live band too! In conclusion, a staycation at Hotel Seri Malaysia Melaka is definitely rewarding. With warm hospitality, comfortable rooms and Melaka itself as a top-notch travel destination, staying at the hotel is an unforgettable experience for all travellers. W: www.serimalaysia.com.my T: +6 06 232 8460 IG: www.instagram.com/rangkaianhotelserimalaysia / www. instagram.com/hotelserimalaysiamelaka FB: www.facebook.com/Hotel-Seri-MalaysiaMelaka-1579503765708816 / www.facebook.com/ rangkaianhotelserimalaysia

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Detour: Hotel Seri Malaysia Port Dickson On our way to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur, we stopped by at Teluk Kemang CafĂŠ in Hotel Seri Malaysia Port Dickson for lunch. We were so delighted to find the choice of mouthwatering dishes served by this cafe, especially Daging Salai Masak Lemak Cili Api, Apam Johol and Roti Jala with Serawa Durian, which are highly recommended! Hotel Seri Malaysia Port Dickson has as a total of 90 rooms consisting of three categories: Standard Twin, Standard Queen and Family Room. Other facilities and services are complimentary Wi-Fi, prayer room, swimming pool, 24-hour reception, safe-deposit box and parking space. Since the hotel is located in a sea-side destination, Port Dickson, other attractions within the area are the Army Museum, Wan Long Temple, PD Waterfront, Ostrich Farm and Cape Rachado Lighthouse (Rumah Api Tanjung Tuan).


Hotels & Resorts

Savouring the Delights of Kuantan and Temerloh with Hotel Seri Malaysia Te x t b y J U H A N K A M A R U D D I N Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI

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Established since 1994, Hotel Seri Malaysia is the largest medium budget hotel chain in Malaysia. Created to help spur Malaysia’s tourism industry by providing more affordable accommodation options to travellers, the chain currently has 21 hotels in its stable, which are present in most states throughout Malaysia except Sabah and Kelantan. Over the 25 years of its existence, the properties within the Hotel Seri Malaysia chain are upgraded from time to time to ensure guests’ comfort. The chain is also undergoing a rebranding exercise to remain current and relevant, especially in attracting new generation of travellers. To increase Hotel Seri Malaysia’s appeal and even enhance awareness towards its brand, Hotel Seri Malaysia – in collaboration with Gaya Travel Magazine – organises three-day-and-two-night familiarisation trips for members of the media, bloggers and influencers to selected properties within its chain, among them Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan and Hotel Seri Malaysia Temerloh, both located in the state of Pahang. The familiarisation trip made by the media, bloggers and influencers to both properties opened their eyes to what travellers can expect when staying there since both have their own charms and in proximity to memorable attractions.

Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan (https://www. serimalaysia.com.my/en/hotels/HsmKuantan) nestles in the relatively quieter side of Kuantan city along Jalan Telok Sisek but still considered central, only 20 kilometres from the airport. The property appears unassuming from the outside, not more than three-storeys high, while its interiors are down-to-earth, easy-going and downright practical. Though its architecture and interior do not make a statement, it does well in meeting travellers’ essential needs, including notable food offerings. In the first glance, the property might not be your first choice for staycation but is undeniably useful for those seeking an uncomplicated place to stay. It even suits business travellers since it is straightforward, fuss-free and pocket-friendly, hence cost-effective.


There are 31 standard twin rooms, 26 family rooms and 35 standard queen rooms in this hotel, bringing the total number of rooms to 92. Each room in this property comes with iron and ironing board, including Muslim prayer mat. There is a modest-sized swimming pool too that guests could use for a quick dip or for travelling families to entertain their small children. Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan is one of the six fortunate Hotel Seri Malaysia properties to be endowed with the trendy and urbane Kafe RASA RASA Seri Malaysia, which aims to move the hotel chain with the times. Interestingly, each Kafe RASA RASA Seri Malaysia is unique to the Hotel Seri Malaysia that it is attached to and possesses its own personality, especially in its choice of menu. In the case of Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan’s Kafe RASA RASA Seri Malaysia, it has successfully created its own oeuvre of signature dishes that impress diners such as the appetising pisang panggang gula melaka (pan seared bananas drizzled in cinnamon and palm sugar then served with chocolate syrup); set mangkuk tingkat daging bakar (steamed rice served together with roasted mutton, vegetables and mackerel cooked in aromatic spicy sour curry, all presented inside a tiffin carrier); and bihun sarang telur (vermicelli wrapped inside an omelette bathed in Thai gravy, together with seafood and vegetable). Mind you, such dishes might not be available at the other Kafe RASA RASA Seri Malaysia and are only available at Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan.


So, after checking in and getting acquainted with Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan, what are some of the things you can do in the destination? Below are some of the things that Gaya Travel Magazine team recommends: 1. Cafe-hopping along Kuantan’s main thoroughfare named Jalan Besar Due to Kuantan’s large youth and college student population who sought for eateries that are valuefor-money yet trendy-looking, the city now boasts an impressive number of hipster cafes to the point that travellers could even create a one-day itinerary just concentrating on café-hopping. Below are some of the cafes that that might interest you:

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i. Lena (https://www.facebook.com/lenabykayuwoods/) – rustic, homely and photogenic, this café is ideal for diners to pose for selfies. ii. Tjantek (https://tjantek.blogspot.com/) – vintage artsystyled cafe with Nusantara (Malay archipelago) vibe, this café is deemed as one of the trailblazers in introducing chic ambience to Kuantan café culture. iii. Kuantan Pickers (https://kuantanpickersdankedaikopi. business.site/) – wistfully nostalgic eatery that serves allday breakfast menu for instance toasted bread and eggs, including comforting favourites like mee rebus (boiled noodles immersed in gravy) and satay. iv. Kopi & Teh (https://www.instagram.com/kopiteh.co/ )– affordable hipster cafe selling local favourites amidst pared-down and almost industrial interiors. The specialty here is kopi terbalik (coffee served upside down), which the café is famous for. 2. Catch the sunset at Teluk Chempedak on a clear day Since Kuantan is close to the sea, the best spot to spend at the beach while taking in the breeze is definitely the quaint Teluk Chempedak that is replete with eateries, shops, and stalls selling knick-knacks and souvenirs. Since the place is popular among locals, the crowd tends to swell at sunset. Travellers should expect the road leading to Teluk Chempedak from Kuantan city congested on weekends and finding a parking spot challenging. It is still worth visiting nonetheless because the area is wellmaintained and offer family-friendly respite. 3. Savour delicious seafood at Ana Ikan Bakar Petai (Tel: +6 013 998 9175) in Tanjung Lumpur Besides the restaurant’s renowned grilled fish cooked with spices and mung beans that give it an appetising aroma, it also serves up other seafood dishes like crabs, mussels, shrimps, and three-flavoured fish. It is best for travellers to avoid dining at the restaurant during weekends, including public and school holidays, because the place can get too crowded due to its immense popularity.


Hotel Seri Malaysia Temerloh Surrounded by greenery and tranquillity, Hotel Seri Malaysia Temerloh (https://www.serimalaysia.com. my/en/hotels/HsmTemerloh) is normally full during weekends with travellers fleeing the urban bustle, especially those from Klang Valley considering Temerloh is merely two hours’ drive from Kuala Lumpur. The hotel is also a stone’s throw to Temerloh Esplanade and the weekly Sunday market called Pekan Sehari where travellers can frolic and relish the town’s delights. For those who want to commune with wildlife and nature, the hotel is less than an hour’s drive to Deerland Park, National Elephant Conservation Centre Kuala Gandah or Lata Bujang Waterfall. Hotel Seri Malaysia Temerloh offers 50 rooms: three Deluxe Rooms (the highest category and currently priced at RM208 per night per room), 15 Standard Queen Rooms, 15 Standard Twin Rooms, and the remaining are Family Rooms. 50% of the rooms at the hotel have already been upgraded, while the rest will be refurbished in stages. There are also spaces where small and medium-sized meetings, functions and events can be held. The hotel’s Kafe RASA RASA Seri Malaysia is renowned for its delicious patin (silver catfish) dishes prepared in different ways such as cooked in fermented durian gravy, steamed or fried. As a matter of fact, the state of Pahang, particularly the town of Temerloh, is synonymous with patin cooked in fermented durian gravy – travellers from far specifically come to Temerloh simply to enjoy this satiating dish. Since you are already in Temerloh, how about dropping by at the nostalgic and Instagram-worthy Warong Selai (https://www.facebook.com/warongselai), founded by husband and wife team Mat Kamal and Kaka Fairy? Located by the roadside at the 4th Mile on Jalan Maran, it takes around 15 minutes’ drive to get to the cafe from Hotel Seri Malaysia Temerloh. Besides taking selfies, be sure to pick a selection of the café’s seductive pastries like cinnamon rolls, cheesecakes, brownies and buns, including beverages like homemade passion fruit tea. For more information on Hotel Seri Malaysia, visit https:// www.serimalaysia.com.my/en/Home.


Hotels & Resorts

Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island Te x t b y M U H A M M A D H A S I F M O H D J E L A N I Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI & ED JUNAIDI

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White sandy beaches, pristine waters, exciting water sports, stunning sunsets and gorgeous underwater sites are some of the ultimate reasons why Manukan Island is simply one of the most popular islands in Sabah. Furthermore, the island is just around 15 minutes by speedboat from Sutera Harbour Marina, which in turn is a mere 10 minutes’ drive from Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Manukan is the second largest island situated within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which is Sabah’s second national park that has been gazetted since 1974. It also consists of four other islands namely Gaya, Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug so that marine life and the ecosystem within it can be protected. Manukan is noteworthy because the island is the place where travellers can witness two mature trees called Bruguiera Hainesii (locally known as berus mata buaya) that belong to the extremely rare mangrove tree species. Interestingly, there are only 200 of such trees left in this world. Though there is an option for travellers to visit Manukan for a day trip, Gaya Travel Magazine team strongly recommends that travellers spend longer time here to further indulge themselves with everything the island has to offer by staying at Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island since the island feels completely different after all of the day-trippers return to the mainland.


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There are three types of well-appointed lodges that travellers can choose from: Hillside Villa, Manukan Villa and Beach Suite. All of these lodges face the South China Sea, have direct access to the beach and come in relaxing creamy white hue. Each unit is equipped with air-conditioner, water heater and flat-screen television as well. We experienced staying at Manukan Villa, which we found exceptionally cosy and spacious. At 1,512 feet squared, this villa can accommodate up to six persons and consists of two well-furnished bedrooms, two bathrooms, common toilet, pantry and living area. Yup, it is such indeed a place fitting for a BFF trip or family day gathering.

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Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island provides not just one but two food and beverage outlets – The Arang Restaurant and Perahu Restaurant – that are conveniently next to each other. Arang Restaurant serves BBQ buffet meals and ala carte options, while Perahu Restaurant serves Western Asian fare and local delicacies. Irrespective of whichever outlet that guests are sitting in, they are allowed to order their food from either of them. We had the opportunity to savour the two best-selling dining items, which are Nasi Biryani Bamboo and Chicken Burger. With generous portions and delicious flavour, we swiftly understood why both are popular. Guests can request to dine within the comforts of their rooms too by dialling up room service. However, to crank the dining experience up another notch, we recommend that couples choose the utterly memorable cabana dinner, which we experienced. Imagine enjoying your satiating meal during sunset by the beach accompanied by the soothing sound of waves breaking in the background as the sky turns dark and the moon begins to appear especially for you and your partner. If that is not enough, wait until a group of musicians approach your table to serenade you and your partner with two or three mellifluous ballads. It is such a perfect, dreamy moment to sentimentally propose to your partner or simply immerse in intimate conversation while being lullabied by the romantic atmosphere, which almost feels like a fragment from a music video or a movie scene… As an island destination, Manukan is not short of complimentary outdoor activities such as volleyball, kiteflying, jungle-trekking and, of course, snorkelling, whereby travellers can request for the snorkelling gear from the front office as it is limited in number. In case the current does not permit guests to swim in the sea, the resort possesses a large outdoor pool near to the food and beverage outlets for guests to have a dip.

Other than that, travellers can even indulge in diving, jet ski, parasailing, and banana boat depending on the operators’ availability. For more information about diving activity, travellers can refer to www.downbelowadventures.com. When being on Manukan, guests should not miss taking in the sight of the million-dollar sunset that Sabah is internationally recognised for from the viewpoint located 40 minutes’ walk away (1.5 kilometres) from the resort. Sounds tiring? Fret not; the walk to the viewpoint is easy because the trail is paved and well-shaded by trees along the way. Once arrived, guests are bound to be rewarded by the glorious display of colours in the sky that slowly change from blue into shades of orange and vermilion with tinges of mauve as the sun sets. Though travellers to Manukan do come and go, the resort has its certified longest in-house guests in the form of komodo lizards named Garry, Steven, and Maggie. These reptiles usually appear during lunch hour, so if you are lucky, you might be able to see them roaming around the area during the said time. They never harm anyone, but be sure to not step on their tails! For obvious reasons, experiencing Manukan in less than a day is absolutely insufficient, thus the existence of Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island is the much needed answer that guests seek as valid excuse to stay on this mesmerising island way longer... For bookings and enquiries, contact Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island at +6 015 4876 1800 / +6 017 833 5022 or info@suterasanctuarylodges.com.my. To find out more about the property, log on to www.suterasanctuarylodges.com.my.


Kuta Mandalika Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Lombok

View from top: Kuta Lombok Mandalika

Mandalika: The Ultimate Paradise in the Heart of Lombok Mandalika Beach, also known as Kuta Beach due to it’s location near the Kuta Village, is one of the popular beaches in the Central Lombok Regency.

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This name comes from a folklore about a legend of Princess Mandalika, who threw herself into the sea and transformed into a sea worm called Nyale. The allures of this beach include its clear water with calm, unthreatening waves. At low tide, it will be easy to spot marine life such as algae, starfish and sea cucumbers that live on the beach. This is also where visitors may find active corals that expands seawards. Another attraction of Mandalika Beach is its white pepperseed-like sand that fits perfectly with the background of green hills, especially during the rainy season. Naturally, this also makes it an ideal location for photography enthusiasts who love to capture stunning landscape shots of the coastline,

Scenery from the top of Merese Hill, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara

the sea and the hills. Merese Hill near the beach is one of the popular spots to achieve this. Mandalika Beach is set to be a new beach icon in Lombok after Senggigi Beach in West Lombok. It sits within the Mandalika area, which has been recognised as the Special Economic Zone (KEK) or place of natural protection in Indonesia. The development of the Mandalika Resort is also in progress, along with an integrated tourism centre for Central Lombok equipped with world class tourism infrastructure and facilities. #WonderfulIndonesia. Enjoying Kuta Beach at Mandalika, Lombok, Indonesia

Admiring the beautiful seascape view of Tanjung Aan Beach and Mandalika area, Lombok, Indonesia

Find the best packages and deals about Mandalika only on www.indonesia.travel, discover now!


Hotels & Resorts

Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island 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 E L A N I

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It was raining a bit late that evening. Our plan was to catch the glorious sunset view from Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island’s signature Moon Deck, where we were supposed to have dinner, seemed dashed. Now that I mentioned it, I guess we also had to give that dinner a miss since it is an outdoor dining area that only fit’s twosomes. I spent a couple of hours waiting at our suite’s balcony, hoping that the rain would stop to the point I almost gave up. But then the rain finally stopped! God must have answered my prayers. Besides, we were also blessed with one of the most glorious sunset views we had ever witnessed…


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Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island sits above 390 acres of land on Rebak Island. To reach this very private and secluded haven, travellers board a quick seven-minute speedboat ride from Port Cenang on Langkawi main island. As our speedboat arrived at the jetty, we were stunned to see countless yachts from all over the world docking at its marina. It is worth noting that this marina on Rebak Island, managed by Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island, is the only fully equipped marina in Malaysia with a dry dock facility too. After getting our body temperature checked at the jetty as part of the standard operating procedure (SOP), we were whisked to the lobby on a buggy, passing by half of the property’s grounds, including the mangroves and vast landscaped greenery. The sky was quite gloomy therefore we were protected from direct sunlight, but then if it were to be a clear and blazing hot day, it would not have been much different because the towering trees would have shaded us along the way. After checking in and welcomed with a glass of drink, we were straight away ushered to our accommodation, which we have been looking forward to. 116 110

The unit where we stayed at Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island is a luxury two-bedroom garden view suite, one of the 94 accommodation units constructed using Chengal timber, a highly sturdy tropical hardwood often used in traditional Malay architecture. This 103-metre squared suite can cater up to six guests. As we entered the suite, we could not help but admire its spacious living area complete with a comfortable sofa set and coffee table plus LCD television above a wooden cabinet that conceals a mini fridge, as well as complimentary tea- and coffee-making facility. A few steps from the living area is the outdoor balcony where guests can breathe in the oxygenrich, umbrageous garden. Since the balcony is furnished with two chairs and a coffee table, it definitely becomes our most favourite spot inside the suite to relax while reading a book and sipping coffee. The master bedroom is exceptionally large. It has one king-sized bed with a long dressing table and a wardrobe containing robes, safety deposit box, room slippers and iron set, including en-suite bathroom with a bathtub. The space in the other bedroom is also generous and kitted with two single beds. Though this bedroom has no en-suite bathroom, whoever sleeps in this room can conveniently utilise the bathroom located at the hallway, close to the living area. Since the emergence of the alarming COVID-19 pandemic,

Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island has been implementing heightened hygiene and safety procedures without compromising traveller’s comfort and peace of mind in accordance to the guidelines by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Malaysian government. This includes the resort’s initiative to lessen human contact by introducing the ROOMIE App (available on iOS App Store and Android Play Store), which allows travellers to browse the resort’s additional services, menu available at the restaurant and free blockbuster movies simply from guests’ own handheld devices. Minibar has been removed but fret not, refreshments can still be ordered through in-room dining service. Safety and hygiene kits are thoughtfully provided in all rooms too. At the time of writing, there is only one food and beverage outlet operating in the resort called Senari, an all-day dining establishment that serves up a long list of Malay, Indian, Chinese, and international options. The name is derived from the Senari Straits located between Rebak Island and Rebak Kecil. In a span of three days, we had the pleasant experience in trying out different menu during each meal and we finally decided that the restaurant’s Malaysian satay, ikan asam pedas (fish cooked in spicy sour curry) and chicken rendang dishes are our favourites and worth recommending. For couples, a stay at Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island is more fulfilling when they experience a romantic beach dinner. Imagine having your meals while being soothed by the sound of waves and calming view of the Andaman Sea – that moment deserves to be etched in memory for a long time. The theme for the evening when we had our beach dinner was Western Cuisine, which showcased thymescented mushroom soup, rosemary-scented roasted chicken and gremolata crusted barramundi fish fillet as part of the scrumptious menu. For a more extraordinary experience, we suggest that guests should dine at the Moon Deck, which stretches out from the near end of the beach and is specially designed to seat only two persons. Being secluded, this could be the most romantic spot on the island, ideal for couples to enjoy an intimate moment together. As a matter of fact, we consider the Moon Deck as iconic and encapsulates what Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island is all about. The night is made even more unforgettable thanks to the copacetic Indian-themed fare such as tamatar dal dhania shorba (tomato and lentil soup with coriander), lamb biryani (lamb cooked with fragrant basmati rice and mild spices) and vegetable makhanwala (melange of vegetables in velvety tomato gravy). On top of that, the majestic view of the sunset totally elevates the setting.


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Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island even provides scheduled boat transfer service for travellers who wish to have an excursion to Langkawi main island. The service is complimentary unless requested off the stated schedule. We opted not to leave Rebak Island until the last day because there are various things to do at the resort to occupy our time. For instance, during high tide, travellers can go kayaking at no extra cost. We also spent time exploring the property by bike, which can be rented at a minimum charge. Other activities include archery, badminton, squash, tennis, volleyball, batik kit-painting, fishing, tree-planting and playing indoor games. The resort has its own large swimming pool too, including a pool for the younger ones, ideal for family-bonding time. Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island has a few nature trails too, whereby some can be explored by guests on their own. Otherwise, guests can request for a guide at the front desk. If jogging is not enough, travellers who wish to keep to their fitness regime can work out at the resort’s gymnasium. Lying next to it is the spa that offers treatments such as massage, pedicure and manicure. We experienced the spa’s signature head and shoulder massage for 30 minutes, which

was totally relaxing that we almost fell asleep during the session! Food lovers should join the resort’s cooking class. Due to the SOPs, guests are not allowed to do the cooking themselves but are still able to learn the recipes from a certified chef. In our case, Chef Kamal Prasath, the resort’s sous chef with 15 years of experience, showed us how to cook phad thai (traditional Thai rice noodles) and Thai basil chicken (minced chicken cooked with Thai spices, herbs and basil). In short, staying at Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island is downright rewarding because it lives up to its promise as an enchanting, private retreat. Due to its distance away from urban bustle, we not only indulged in a relaxing solitude, but an enjoyable one too. It is a haven where doing nothing is therapeutic and doing everything can be equally invigorating, especially together with your partner… For more information on Vivanta Langkawi Rebak Island, browse https://www.vivantahotels.com/en-in/vivanta-langkawirebak-island/?utm_source=Google&utm_medium=Local&utm_ campaign=vivanta-rebak-island-langkawi


Gaya Interview

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YB Zawawi Mughni

Executive Councillor for Islamic Affairs, Consumer Affairs and Halal Industry, Selangor State Government

In Service for This Life and the Hereafter


The Honourable (YB) Mohd Zawawi bin Ahmad Mughni is an assemblyman at the Selangor State Legislative Assembly representing the constituency of Sungai Kandis where he was born and bred. Affectionately called Ustaz Zawawi due to his background as religious teacher and lecturer, he is respected in his constituency as an imam (leader of Muslim congregational prayer), Muslim marriage official, counsellor and motivational expert. YB Zawawi even founded Darul Wardah (a home for rehabilitating delinquent women) with his wife Ustazah Hazlina binti Abd Razak, besides being involved in many other social projects for the needy. Ever willing to extend help and noted for his calibre, YB Zawawi is recently appointed as the Executive Councillor (Exco) overseeing the portfolio of Islamic Affairs, Consumer Affairs and Halal Industry for Selangor, which is Malaysia’s most developed state. In this interview, YB Zawawi shares with Gaya Travel Magazine on what his new role entails, and how he intends to serve the state and the public through his office. Islamic Affairs Gaya Travel: Can you share with us what is your office’s responsibilities when it comes to Islam and Muslims in the state? YB Zawawi: My main responsibility under this portfolio is to ensure that all matters pertaining to Islam and Muslims in Selangor goes well and administered smoothly. On the same note, my office is responsible in addressing issues and coordinating with agencies that fall within the administration of the religion of Islam in Selangor, for instance the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS), appointment of Mufti (Islamic scholar and expert in everything related to Islam), Fatwa (Islamic Decree) Council, Syariah Courts, and Islamic places of worship so that they are all managed smoothly in accordance to the Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2003. As such, we are improving the running of the Shariah courts to expediently settle issues revolving Muslim marriage, divorce and family conflicts. The administration of Islamic Affairs portfolio is also actively looking into two major items: the building of a comprehensive database so that information can be channelled systematically and efficiently; and to improve the process of serving the public. To keep abreast with the times, we are proposing to create a digital radio and apps to link up all programmes held in mosques throughout Selangor so that Muslims can continue to receive reminders on how to progress themselves and deepen their faith by tuning in to the lectures, talks,

discussions and question-and-answer sessions held at those mosques via their mobile devices. This is timely because many mosques at the moment are closed from public to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Gaya Travel: What are the pressing issues faced by Muslims in Selangor? How does your office address them? YB Zawawi: Muslims in Selangor face various challenges, for instance income inequality and low economic status, lack of knowledge empowerment, disintegration of the family institution, and the decline in faith. The challenges have doubled due to rising rate of unemployment, loss of income, and food supply cut off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Domestic conflicts are escalating too, prompting the state government of Selangor to take necessary measures to tackle these challenges. We are preparing for counselling centres to be opened at selected mosques in every district in Selangor to assist those who face difficulties in coping with the pandemic by guiding them to become more positive and able to make effective decisions. For objectivity and confidentiality, counselling is provided to those who are above 15 years old and not related to the counsellor in any way. One counselling centre already operational is in Kampung Jawa, which is run by an experienced counsellor. I invite those in Selangor who have counselling experience to participate in this project during their spare time. Gaya Travel: Though travel and tourism are currently affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is anticipated that Islamic tourism will rebound after the pandemic is over and Muslims can travel again. How can your office encourage Islamic tourism in Selangor? YB Zawawi: Businesses relying on Islamic religious travel namely umrah (minor pilgrimage) and hajj (major pilgrimage) have been severely affected due to the pandemic, especially since the Malaysian borders are still closed. However, domestic tourism activities that are congruent with Islamic principles should be galvanised. Tourism activities like visiting mosques and historical educational institutions in Selangor should be encouraged. Landmarks such as Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, Masjid Sultan Sulaiman, Sultan Alam Shah Islamic College, Selangor Integrated Islamic and Quranic Centre, including various mosques that are over 100 years old, can be marketed as tourism destinations. The most visited mosque in Selangor by tourists is Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah in Shah Alam, which offers dedicated tour guides to explain about the mosque, Islam, and the Muslims’ way of life.

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wanted to understand the prevailing social issues and ways that a state like Selangor respond to them. On top of that, several proposals relating to agro-tourism in Sungai Kandis constituency has been outlined. Among them are local Javanese culinary festival to promote traditional delicacies popular among local communities of Javanese descent; pineapple festival in Johan Setia to allow the public to interact with the farmers and learn how the crop is cultivated; and putting the spotlight on the cooperative Kohijrah in Johan Setia, which retails all products that are produced in the locale. However, they are currently postponed due COVID-19 pandemic. Sungai Kandis is home to seven residential villages, and two of them are specially categorised as kampung tradisi (traditional villages that are over 100 years old): Kampung Jawa, and Kampung Jalan Kebun, which is now part of Shah Alam’s Section 30 and renowned for its agricultural products. Weary urbanites can come to these traditional villages to enjoy a more relaxing environment.

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Regarding tourism, our office attempts to assist in meeting the needs of Muslim tourists who come to Selangor by providing Muslim-friendly accommodations, halal restaurants, and Qibla direction together with copies of the holy Quran made available in hotel rooms, including at the rest and recuperation (R&R) spots. Selangor is studying Charity Tourism – a subset of Volunteer Tourism – in which tourists can come and offer support to those in need at specific destinations. Welfare homes and rehabilitation centres in Selangor such as Al-Jenderami Complex in Sepang and Baitul Mawaddah in Klang (nursing homes catering to destitute senior citizens); Darussolihin in Klang and Rumah Insaf (centres for those who are recovering from substance abuse); and Darul Wardah in Klang, Rumah Arafiah in Shah Alam, Raudhah Sakinah in Ampang and Baitul Ehsan in Sabak Bernam (home for formerly delinquent women) are being identified as potential places where Muslim tourists can come over to contribute and do good. Still talking about Charity Tourism, I look forward to applying this in my constituency, which has six charity homes that are run by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), namely Darul Wardah, Darul Solihin, Baitul Mawaddah, Baitul Salam (transit house for Muslim converts who need guidance and support to continue their lives), Taufiq Islami (school for the children of Muslim converts), and Rumah Damai (a home catering to 80 persons who are experiencing mental health conditions). With prior arrangement, tourists can visit these homes to directly learn from the experiences of those who are admitted into these homes, including giving morale support or donation. In fact, these homes have been receiving not just locals but officials from Turkey and Bangladesh as well who

Consumer Affairs Gaya Travel: How does Selangor protect the rights of the consumers within the state? Are there enough laws to protect the consumers’ rights in Selangor? YB Zawawi: The role played by the state of Selangor is to ensure that consumers know their rights and responsibilities. The government is obligated to protect consumers’ rights. Furthermore, the Executive Council for Consumer Affairs works closely with NGOs such as Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association and Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan Consumer Association. Several programmes are being devised to ensure that consumers’ rights are protected. As for the enforcement of price control, our office collaborates with the Ministry of Domestic Trades and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) for constant monitoring. We endeavour to defend consumers’ rights and take appropriate actions against those who commit offence and breach the Consumer Protection Act that encompasses consumers’ right to basic necessities, right to safety, right to consumer education, right to speak, and right to access information. If there are complaints from the public, for example substandard quality of housing, our role is to accurately channel their complaints to the relevant agencies and authorities. Gaya Travel: What are the issues often faced by consumers in Selangor? How does your office assist consumers in protecting their rights? YB Zawawi: Consumers of today face many challenges. Latest among them are related to fraudulent online transactions and scams.


Alarmingly, the number of victims from scams is on the rise, and Selangor registers the highest so far at 927 cases with losses totalling MYR50.4 million. We are now running awareness campaigns among consumers so as not to fall for any scam. Another concern is the problematic smartphone and internet use among underage children, who are exposed to the dangers of pornography, game addiction and emotional distress, among others. Gaya Travel: What are Selangor’s plans to ensure that consumers in the state do not face water problems in the future? YB Zawawi: Selangor state government is committed to solving the state’s water woes considering the state consumes as much as 222 litres of water per capita per day. We are immediately taking short-term and long-term measures to solve this problem. The state government intends to utilise high technology drones, track water data, conduct constant observation, and analyse the water on daily basis to effectively monitor the rivers and comprehensively conserve the water resources. The state government is executing holistic strategies to ensure that the water resources remain safe and consumers are continuously supplied with clean and quality water for health and well-being. Halal Industry Gaya Travel: Could you kindly share with us how the Selangor government define ‘halal industry’? YB Zawawi: Halal means permissible in Islam. Muslims are urged to consume good and services that are prepared in compliance to Islamic practices and Shariah (law), as well as recognised as trustworthy, ethical, safe, and nutritious or enriching. To ramp up investments and industrialisation of Selangor, the state government has created a new portfolio called Halal Industry to increase economic activity, particularly the sectors that incorporate halal standards, so that they can progress along with other sectors. My office is interested in collaborating with Halal International Selangor (HIS), an initiative by the Selangor state government to develop an ecosystem that connects all players within the industry, besides opening up more opportunities for prospective halal assured organisations seeking to expand internationally. HIS is focussing on building a database of halal industry players in Selangor; encouraging foreign investors to invest in Selangor by matching with a local strategic partner who is a halal industry player; and facilitate halal industry players to obtain halal certification.

Gaya Travel: How big is the halal industry in Selangor and is the state serious in developing the halal industry? YB Zawawi: At the moment I am not able to explain in detail the size of the halal industry in Selangor, but based on information provided by the Malaysian federal government agency Halal Development Corporation Berhad (HDC), the global Muslim population is estimated to be 1.8 billion, therefore halal industry should be able to meet the demand from such a large market because it augments the Islamic way of life. The market for halal products in Malaysia alone is estimated to be USD13 billion and growing, therefore Selangor, with its strategic position, can readily take advantage of this. Selangor is seriously developing the halal industry, in which the state government is formulating strategies to enlarge this sector to attract more investments and turn Selangor into a global halal hub. Since this portfolio is new, our office requires advice from the state economic planning unit (UPEN) regarding the amount of budget to be allocated for the halal industry. One market that Selangor halal industry is intent at targeting is China because it is estimated that there are over 50 million Muslims in that nation who demand for Muslim-friendly or halal goods and services that Selangor halal industry players can provide. Demand for halal products in China is increasing and Selangor must tap into that lucrative market due to the country’s growing middle class.

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Gaya Travel: How can Selangor grow its halal industry? YB Zawawi: Selangor is giving attention to making the issuance of halal certification, especially for small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), easier. We are joining forces with HIS regarding this. Gaya Travel: Is your office introducing anything new to empower the halal industry in Selangor? YB Zawawi: Our immediate focus is to streamline our database on the local halal industry before attracting foreign investors on a grander scale. We will create a onestop centre to reduce red tape so that the halal industry can obtain certification speedily. Gaya Travel: Besides food and beverages, how can Selangor’s halal industry widen its scope to include more sectors in the economy like tourism, technology or finance?

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YB Zawawi: Halal industry does not only cover food and beverages but also encompasses cosmetics, logistics, finance, tourism and more. The way forward is by joining forces with HDC to widen our scope and role at the state level. My office works hand-in-hand with Selangor state’s investment agency Invest Selangor in this matter too. A series of discussions have been held and Godwilling, several proposals and recommendations to strengthen the halal industry will be implemented. Gaya Travel: What is your hope for your office in the next few years? YB Zawawi: Relating to what I have mentioned earlier, for the next few years, I hope to enhance the level of administration of Islamic affairs and providing excellent service to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is my goal that all services to the public that fall within my portfolio are digitalised where possible for better speed and efficiency. I am determined to allay negative perception towards Islamic institutions by making them friendlier to non-Muslims. I foresee that my office will run more awareness programmes for consumers to understand their rights, especially among youths. Moreover, I am keen to help Selangor become more investor-friendly by making things easier for them, for instance investors from West Asia to be rightly matched with reliable halal industry players in Selangor using a more complete database. My office aims to provide the necessary support to the halal industry players so that they can penetrate markets worldwide.


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Gaya Interview

Bringing Selangor’s Waste Management Services to New Heights Tuan Haji Ramli Mohd Tahir, 126

Managing Director, KDEB Waste Management

Managing waste and maintaining cleanliness of public spaces, including landmarks and tourist attractions, are often overlooked and taken for granted. Those who are involved in such services are unsung heroes and deserve respect because they enhance society’s quality of life. As a tribute to such professionals, Gaya Travel Magazine catches up with the Managing Director of KDEB Waste Management, Tuan Haji Ramli Mohd Tahir, to understand more about waste management in Selangor and how his company keeps the state clean. Approachable, charismatic, far-sighted, and financially astute, Tuan Haji Ramli Mohd Tahir joined the Selangor state government-linked investment company Kumpulan Darul Ehsan Berhad (KDEB) back in 2006 as Corporate Planning Manager. He has been the chief of KDEB Waste Management Sdn Bhd (KDEBWM) since 2014. Under Tuan Haji Ramli’s leadership, KDEBWM makes its mark as the top-of-mind company when it comes to managing waste in Selangor. It is even voted by Frost & Sullivan as the best smart waste management company in Malaysia for three consecutive years: 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Managing waste for Selangor KDEB first involved in the waste management business since 2008 when it held 21% stake in Alam Flora Sdn Bhd, the concessionaire for waste collecting and public cleansing. “When we put out a proposal to acquire the stake in 2008, we had the long-term vision of involving directly in the collection and cleansing business for the whole of Selangor,” reveals Tuan Haji Ramli. KDEB was the second largest shareholder in Alam Flora until 2013 when it sold its stake to the conglomerate DRB-HICOM and decided to do waste collection and public cleansing on its own.


After Alam Flora Sdn Bhd exited the business is Selangor, the state government gave the mandate to all 12 local councils within the state to manage their own waste according to their own capacity and style. “When you have 12 different budgets, procedures and key performance indicators (KPIs), the service standards vary from one local council to another. Shah Alam or Petaling Jaya for instance can collect large amount of funds through quit rent assessment, taxes, compounds and advertising, while smaller local councils like Sabak Bernam, Hulu Selangor, Kuala Langat and Kuala Selangor collect far less, thus have limited funds for waste management,” he recalls. There was obvious difference between councils that have larger financial capacity and those with limited financial capacity because they need to pay the contractors who render the services. The difference in the level of income between one local council to another created discrepancies in service standards. Due to the glaring financial gap among the councils, Selangor state government realised it would be better for the services to be standardised as recommended by KDEB, which proposed to take over waste management for the entire state back in 2016 by pooling money into one big fund for investment and cross subsidisation. KDEB guaranteed to offer the same service level to all parts of Selangor irrespective of their locations, whether Hulu Selangor in the north east, Sabak Bernam and Kuala Selangor in north west, Kajang and Ampang Jaya in south east, Sepang and Kuala Langat in south west, Gombak and Hulu Langat in the east, or Petaling Jaya, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, and Klang in the centre. Subsequently, KDEBWM was formed to run the state’s waste collection and public cleansing business. Selangor, being the most developed state in Malaysia and contributing 23% to the national GDP, has 6.3 million population, including one million foreign workers employed in the ports, airports, industrial and commercial areas within its borders. Selangor’s population and development level commensurate with the amount of waste it generates, which is approximately 7,000 tonnes of domestic waste and 3,000 tonnes of bulky and cleansing waste per day. Considering Malaysia produces 36,000 tonnes of waste per day, 28% of waste is contributed by Selangor alone. There are two types of costs involved when managing waste in Selangor: collection and public cleansing, which is KDEBWM’s business; and disposal. KDEBWM collects domestic waste (for example kitchen waste from shops and houses), and conducts public cleansing like cutting grass, road-sweeping, cleaning drains, and collecting bulky waste (old furniture, for example). On the other hand, disposal – which is not done by KDEBWM – is managed by Selangor State Development Corporation’s Worldwide Holding Berhad through its landfills in Jeram and Tanjung Dua Belas, including Berjaya Landfills in Bukit Tagar, Hulu Selangor.

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Getting to the root of the problem Waste management business requires new trucks because old ones were high in maintenance and repair costs. “We invested in 500 brand new compactors, also known as garbage trucks, to collect domestic waste like kitchen or food waste, and another 500 brand new open tipper or roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) to collect public cleansing waste like cut grass, garden waste, and bulky waste. It is mandatory for our operators to use these new trucks,” he elaborates. KDEBWM now has the largest fleet of trucks in Malaysia to deal with Selangor’s waste. Another reason why none of the past concessionaires invested in new assets was because the concession lasted only one to two years, so he proposed for the state government to give KDEBWM a seven-year concession. “You can’t take a loan if you were given a concession or contract for a short period,” he asserts. In return, the company would borrow from the bank, buy new machines as assets, create new standard operating procedures (SOPs), form new KPIs, and implement what was proposed. The state agreed to the proposal due to the significant outlay required.

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Selangor state government’s budget for 2020 is MYR2.3 billion. Almost 25% to 30% of that amount (around MYR460 million) is allocated for waste collection and public cleansing, which is KDEBWM’s income. By adding another MYR100 million for disposal service, the cost becomes substantial. Tuan Haji Ramli considers waste management business as recession proof because it is in demand every day throughout the year. KDEBWM’s trucks are deployed even during weekends to pick garbage from commercial areas, thereby increasing the tonnage of collected waste as recorded by the landfills in Jeram and Tanjung Dua Belas. “Whether we talk about domestic, private, commercial, or industrial, all of them produce waste 365 days in a year that needs to be cleared. If you manage to clean up the street, residential areas, villages, and downtown, nobody complains when trash is collected, grass is cut, and drains are cleaned according to schedule,” he observes. Waste management is gazetted as part of essential services alongside water management and road maintenance, hence treated as a state government’s imperative. “If the state government fails to manage its waste, this could lead to public outcry, causing citizens to vote the government out. Just imagine if 7,000 tonnes of domestic waste are not collected throughout the state in one, two or three days – it spells disaster! If collections were to be missed, waste will rot and cause pollution like putrefaction and leachate,” stresses Tuan Haji Ramli.

“I am thankful to the state government for lending us MYR48 million as a start to do the investment, but the money was not enough, so we borrowed MYR110 million from Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad, RHB MYR55 million and Malayan Banking Berhad MYR50 million, bringing the amount to more than MYR260 million. It was money well spent,” beams Tuan Haji Ramli. Once green light was obtained, KDEBWM straightaway took the loan, did the investment, opened offices in each zone, identified the right number of staff to supervise the work, selected the best subcontractors as operators for each zone, and persuaded local councils to pass all waste management responsibilities to KDEBWM. By doing so, local councils could instead focus their energy on enforcement and cracking down illegal dumping. Ever since KDEBWM takes over the services for the whole state, the number of illegal dumping has reduced because the trucks are tracked from the command centre using closed-circuit cameras and tracking device. “Public should alert the authorities whenever they see illegal dumping taking place,” he advises. Win-win business model Selangor needs a vibrant economy that offers ample employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for its residents. To support this objective, after being appointed as the main contractor, KDEBWM chose the best 1,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as subcontractors via open tender to collect waste and do public cleansing as stated in the contract. Each subcontractor received a brand-new compactor or roll-on/roll-off (RoRo), which belongs to the subcontractor after five years. KDEBWM’s monthly income of around MYR37 million is shared among these 1,000 subcontractors, whereby each of them employs an average of 30 staff, creating


employment within the state. Tuan Haji Ramli explains that if KDEBWM were to monopolyse the public cleansing and waste collection business by operating on its own without appointing subcontractors and instead bring in foreign manual labourers to do the work, the company would still thrive at the same cost, but the state would be worse off because it could not gain from the multiplier effect brought about by the creation of 1,000 local entrepreneurs and enterprises. Moreover, employing foreign labourers causes money to flow out from the state and country through remittances. Operating prudently According to Tuan Haji Ramli, KDEBWM’s KPI is not the topline (sales) or bottomline (profits) since the state government owns 100% of the company. “To us, our main KPI is to keep Selangor clean. We try our best to comply with the KPIs set by the local councils at the lowest cost possible, for instance collecting trash three times a week at residential areas and every day at commercial areas, cutting grass twice a month, and cleaning the commercial and protocol roads daily. Though different local councils in Selangor impose different tax rates on its residents, they will still get the same standard of service,” he pledges. KDEBWM charges the average rate of MYR7 per household to collect waste 12 times per month in Selangor. “If you subscribe to Act 672 (Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007) signed between the federal government, the state government and the concessionaire, the set cost per household is higher than KDEBWM’s rate,” claims Tuan Haji Ramli. By charging low rate, KDEBWM learns to manage its business carefully by keeping its overheads low through effective cost saving measures and not spending lavishly on offices and remuneration packages. With only 300 staff throughout Selangor, Tuan Haji Ramli runs a tight ship. Meanwhile, Selangor state government does not need to spend more than what is necessary and instead use larger portion of the budget on other critical areas like building and maintaining infrastructure, including extending help to the needy. “It would not be appropriate for KDEBWM as a wholly state-owned company to charge local councils at premium rates because we all belong to Selangor. Of course, if we were allowed to minimally raise the rate, we would invest in more new assets such as water jetters and roadsweepers to boost operational capability,” continues Tuan Haji Ramli. “We charge the same rate to the local councils as what was charged eight years ago. So just imagine what else KDEBWM could provide to the state if we were to charge higher rates. However, the company has no plan to do that since times are hard,” he assures.

If KDEBWM were allowed to hike up the rate, Tuan Haji Ramli is confident that the company can diversify its waste management business to encompass the construction of material recovery facility at each local council where recycling projects can be done, including initiatives like designing vehicles to specifically collect cooking oil, and building wasteto-energy plant that produces and sells electricity. “There is money to be made by converting waste into energy. It is more about investing back to the company and manning it correctly using latest technology and smart ways,” he foresees. Striving for efficiency KDEBWM’s main achievement lies in its ability to prove to the state government that it can run productively by focussing on service level, tonnage collected, and reduction of complaints. “We have achieved 50% cost savings, increased landfill tonnage, and decreased complaints. To us, it is important that the residents of Selangor are pleased to have their streets and surrounding environments become conducive for living,” states Tuan Haji Ramli. “Ever since KDEBWM takes over the waste collection and cleansing job from the local councils, the tonnage at the landfill increased tremendously, meaning the company has been collecting more waste. Before we took over, the level was around 80%; under KDEBWM, the rate has increased to between 90% and 95% – the numbers speak for themselves,” he adds. Eight years ago, when waste management was done by another concessionaire and local councils, the cost for waste collection and public cleansing in Selangor – without new investments in assets – was MYR420 million per year to serve 5.5 million population. Today, KDEBWM covers more residences in Selangor due to larger inventory, especially after the existence of new townships that boost population number like Setia Alam, Alam Impian and Denai Alam. The current cost hovers around MYR440 to MYR450 million per year, not far from the value eight years ago; however, with that amount, KDEBWM also managed to invest in 1,000 units of new trucks worth over MYR260 million, proving that KDEBWM is remarkably efficient. KDEBWM puts in place a satellite command centre to monitor and control its trucks so that they stick to the planned routes. In the past, there were instances when garbage trucks veer off course to engage in unacceptable activities such as illegal dumping because some businesses wanted to avoid paying for landfill services. The trucks are equipped with live closed-circuit camera for 24-hour monitoring. When KDEBWM receives complaint from the public, the command centre picks it up, identify the complainant’s location, and solve the problem.

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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers involved in collecting waste and cleansing wear personal protection equipment provided by the company to mitigate risk of infection, besides having their body temperatures checked daily before starting work. KDEBWM encourages them to constantly apply hand sanitiser and maintain higher level of hygiene. Each worker needs to be responsible in taking care of their health and not infect other people.

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Changing the public’s mindset In Malaysia, littering remains a problem. Though the state government manages waste efficiently, public must be held responsible for their own waste. For this to happen, education should begin at home: Malaysian children must be taught that the waste they produce is their own responsibility. They should not look at waste as something disgusting, especially after it is thrown into the bin, because that waste originates from their own selves. “Malaysians want cleanliness only within their own territory. When we create waste, we want to dump it elsewhere, so we throw it in other people’s or public spaces. By right, if it is your waste, you should be responsible for it – why should you dispose it in other people’s territory?” chides Tuan Haji Ramli. Malaysians have this attitude that other people should take care of their waste, hence they leave it at public areas. This also applies to the drains in commercial and residential neighbourhoods, which are often clogged with waste, causing drain water to overflow. Some businesses even try to cut cost and evade paying landfill services by dumping their residue illegally, discharging waste into drains and rivers. Waste needs to be disposed at specific places to prevent pollution. Malaysians generally do not recycle too. “I am a strong believer in recycling, and unfortunately the recycling rate in Malaysia is too low. You shouldn’t simply dispose or send the waste directly to the landfill. Instead, you can extract items like batteries, rubber, and aluminium for processing. You could even recycle plastic, papers, high density polyethylene, and steel to recoup money. Citizens should segregate their waste at the source and do their part. We need to educate the public to recycle, reduce waste and reuse more,” urges Tuan Haji Ramli.

In fact, KDEBWM has built a small material recovery plant on Jalan Korporat in Meru, Klang to process items up to 20 tonnes per day. Before the trucks dump their collection at the landfill, these trucks drop off recycled items at the plant so that the landfill does not fill up quickly. If a similar plant can be set up at each local council to process items up to 50 tonnes per day, Selangor can save more land from becoming landfills. Otherwise, Selangor is compelled to allocate 100 to 150 acres of land every five to six years just for that purpose. Looking ahead In the future, KDEBWM intends to expand into disposal. “Hopefully, we can propose to the state government that there are alternative ways in dealing with the waste collected. There are more activities that can be done to increase the value of this business, reduce cost, establish new income streams, and implement new methodologies rather than resorting to landfills. We want the state government to give us the chance. “We also want to clean Selangor better than what we are doing now, and continue working with the state government, especially since KDEBWM does not get a single sen from the federal government,” declares Tuan Haji Ramli. Based on KDEBWM’s outstanding track record, Gaya Travel Magazine has no reason to doubt the company’s ability to succeed in many years to come.


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Travel Anecdotes

AEREON WONG T e x t & I m a g e b y A e r e o n Wo n g

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Hello! I’m Aereon Wong, a city boy from Kuala Lumpur. I work in the Information Technology industry, specialising in Business Intelligence. Interestingly, due to my presence on social media where I have been sharing my travel experiences through my Instagram page @aereonwong, many thought I am in the photography industry. My enthusiasm towards travelling began since the time when I started working with AirAsia as a vendor in 2012 and 2013, which inspired me to explore beyond Malaysia. My first real challenge was conquering Mount Kota Kinabalu in 2014. Thereafter, I have been exploring many places while participating in adventurous activities such as cliff jumping, scuba diving, hiking, solo travelling, and hopefully more once the COVID-19 pandemic abates. Photography has been the tool for me to share my adventures and it is that medium where I’m happy to share my experiences, from hunting sunsets to meeting new friends during my journeys. Aereon on travels . My favourite destination(s): Japan and Italy . My dream destination(s): Too many places! Iceland for the landscape and aurora, New Zealand, New York, Egypt, and the list goes on and on!

. My must-have(s) in the carry on: My photography gear! And my phone with internet access. . My worst nightmare during travel: Damaging/losing my photography gear, being pickpocketed, and injuring myself. . My favourite Malaysian spot(s): Petronas Twin Towers - it’s my favourite iconic architecture that we will never get bored of. . My best meal taken in Malaysia: Nasi lemak . Malaysia is special because… this is my home, with my family and friends, beautiful places, variety of delicious food and culture, and accessibility to explore Instagrammable spots and adventures around the region. . Solo or group travel? I go solo if I couldn’t find the right travel partner. . Aisle or window seat? Window seat always! . See it all or take it easy? Take it easy. . I travel for…the experience and to see the world through the photographic lens.

Aereon in 30 seconds . Night owl or early-riser? Mostly night owl, but I’m an early riser when travelling to get those sunrise golden hour moments! . Back to nature or city slicker? Mixture of both! I love nature but I also love to hunt for architectural shots. . One book everyone should read? I’m not a book person. . What is the last thing you Googled? How to edit [...] in Premiere Pro. . What’s on your playlist right now? So Far Away by Martin Garrix & David Guetta . What is the moment you’re most proud? There are many moments such as getting first-class honours in my degree, and having my photography contents featured by big accounts for instance Tourism Malaysia,GoPro, and DJI Malaysia, among others. . What’s your biggest pet peeve? Those who can’t keep promises. . Whose brain would you like to have had? Haha. I’m happy to just have my own brain and be myself =) . Life is too short to... regret the things that we could have done.


Mural Art, Ipoh Old Town

Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar

Pulau Bangau, Teluk Intan

Profile for Chandi Media Group

Gaya Travel Magazine 15.2