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VISIT ASIA's FIRST UNESCO GLOBAL GEOPARK


Welcome To The Best Tropical Karst Island In The World

LanGSIR CAVE, Langkawi


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Pusing Selangor Dulu!

Explore here!


Contents

ISSUE 16.2

Cover Illustration by Mohd Asyraff

WE ARE NOW AVAILABL E

ONLINE

Bin Abd Rajak .......... Photo By Tourism Selangor

www.issuu.com/gayatravel

Departments

014. Editorial Jottings

Gaya Special Feature

012

016. 030. 060. 068. 074. 084. 118

Tourism Malaysia and LADA Gained International Recognition at PATA Gold Awards 2021 Enhancing Islamic Tourism Experience Through The Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide Programme Putrajaya Gears Up to Host IBBY International Congress 2022 Tourism Selangor Celebrated its 20 Years of Excellence Ministry Of Housing And Local Government Strives For Community Wellbeing ITC Clinches Strategic Business Alliance Award in World Halal Best Brands E-Branding Awards 2021 5 Must - Try Kopitiams in Selangor

GAYA Traveller

021. Gaya Traveller’s 60th Feature

Destinations

044. #LepakPerakLah 076. 6 Key Attractions that You Must Visit (and Revisit) in Kuala Lumpur 088. Hiking in Malaysia after COVID-19 Lockdown – What to Expect 094. 7 Establishments in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur that You Might have Overlooked 098. Experience Mother Nature at Desaru 104. Kajang Beyond Its Satay Reputation 108. North of Taipei : A Halal Taiwanese Adventure to Beitou and Shilin Districts 120. Spunky Sepang

Hotels & Resorts 124. 128.

Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre, Your Home in the City A Glimpse of Hotel Seri Malaysia in The Country’s Northern Region


JOURNEY TO

THE NEW HOME OF TURKISH AIRLINES The airline that flies to more countries than any other awaits you in the world’s new aviation center

ISTANBUL AIRPORT


Digital Illustration by Rain Hamzah (Facebook: Rain Hamzah

Editorial Jottings

Since the second quarter of 2021, COVID-19 has been raging mercilessly throughout the world, especially due to the more transmissible Delta variant, leaving paths of despair and deaths. The number of infections in Malaysia alone even reached close to 24,000 at one point, and then averaged out between 18,000 and 20,000 daily, including over 200 COVID-19 deaths per day, high among those who possess pre-existing health conditions and comorbidities. Upon closer inspection, only less than 2% of the COVID-19 cases are categorised as severe and require admission into the intensive care units, while the remaining 98% are asymptomatic or having light symptoms and can be quarantined at home.

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As of September 2021, the intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Sabah, Kedah and Perak hospitals experienced overcapacity, while Selangor, Kelantan, Penang and Johor were close to full capacity. To reduce casualties, the Malaysian government deploys resources at these states, including mobilising the Malaysian Armed Forces’ assets, expertise and manpower to support the struggling healthcare system. In time, the once overburdened nationwide healthcare system has slightly eased due to the aggressive vaccination drive. It is evident that by getting as many people in Malaysia vaccinated as fast as possible, the country has reduced the severity of COVID-19 infections. At the current vaccination rate, the newly appointed Minister of Health Khairy Jamaluddin bin Abu Bakar anticipates that 80% of the Malaysian population would have been inoculated by end of October 2021, which by then render the COVID-19 spread as endemic, in line with the trends seen across the world. Therefore, like it or not, we have no choice but to accept the fact that we need to live with COVID-19 by adapting to the new norms. Amidst all this, seeing there is light at the end of the tunnel, the Malaysian government announced on 2 September 2021 that Langkawi is the first COVID-19-free destination to open to local tourists beginning 16 September 2021, subject to stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs), considering over 80% of the island’s population have already been fully vaccinated.This pilot project is critical in determining the feasibility of reopening tourism destinations during the new normal to get the economy going since tourism destinations in Malaysia are heavily reliant on tourist arrivals and spending. No doubt, the reopening of Langkawi excites many travellers, who themselves can’t wait to pack their bags and explore exotic locales again. However, only fully vaccinated travellers (those received

their second dose for more than 14 days or 28 days for single dose vaccines like Cansino or Johnson & Johnson) who have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to travelling to Langkawi are allowed in. Travellers originating from states or territories other than Kedah and Perlis coming to Langkawi by land and ferry need to first apply for police permit by presenting legitimate proof of accommodation bookings on the island; they also must travel from their point of origin to Langkawi using transport service provided by a registered and licensed Malaysian tour operator. Those who travel by air do not need to apply for police permit. All travellers are strongly reminded to bring along or purchase COVID-19 saliva self-test kits at any of Langkawi’s entry points, where they need to be tested before proceeding into the island. Should the project prove successful, it would then be extended to the other island destinations like Redang, Perhentian, Pangkor and Tioman once 80% of these islands’ population are fully inoculated. Compared to Peninsular Malaysia mainland, Sarawak and Sabah, controlling people’s movements in these islands is probably easier, hence the decision to designate them as COVID-19-free bubbles. It can’t be stressed enough that the travelling public must continue to don face masks properly when being in public, keep their hands consistently clean by washing with soap or sanitising them often, and maintain social distancing. Just because those who reside in Malaysia can now travel further, albeit domestically, this does not mean they can abandon the SOPs and health protocols; it is imperative for each one of us to responsibly play our part by ensuring that we take necessary precautions and measures when travelling so as not to endanger ourselves but also others. Hope we can all begin relishing some semblance of life pre-COVID-19 by adhering to the SOPs for the sake of our own livelihood and sanity. However, those who are not be able to go to Langkawi for the time being can instead proceed to getaway spots closer to home. Klang Valley residents could instead opt to become tourists in their own backyards by revisiting Kuala Lumpur’s attractions (page 76), checking out cafes in Taman Desa (page 94), acquainting themselves with the delights found in Kajang (page 104), compare the different kopitiams (coffee shops) around Selangor (page 118), and frolic around Sepang (page 120). Once the COVID-19 situation improves, travellers should also head over to Perak (page 44) and Johor, especially to the up-and-coming Desaru Coast (page 98) and staying at the newly opened Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre (page 124), including the Hotel Seri Malaysia properties in Kepala Batas and Alor Setar (page 128). If you dream to escape further, read up about backpacking to North Taipei (page 108) for ideas on what you can do when you go to Taiwan in the future. Again, be sure to follow the SOPs wherever you are heading. On that note, stay healthy and safe everybody! JUHAN KAMARUDDIN@JEREMY KHALIL

Email your comments to jeremy@gayatravel.com.my

O F F I C I A L W E B S I T E www.gayatravel.com.my

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Gaya Special Feature

To u r i s m M a l a y s i a and LADA Gained International R e c o g n i t i o n a t P ATA Gold Awards 2021

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A page from Tourism Malaysia 2021 Desk Calendar Malaysia has won two out of 25 categories presented at this year’s virtual PATA Gold Awards, namely through Tourism Malaysia for the Print Marketing Campaign category and Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) for the Heritage category. Tourism Malaysia’s 2021 Desk Calendar with its “Dive into Your Dream – Malaysia 365 Days” theme reminds its users of Malaysia’s picturesque natural beauty, from its dazzling blue seas, multi-colour sunsets, and mystic rainforests. The idea is to inspire the users of their next holiday in the country, away from the bustling city scenes and into the secret world of Malaysia’s off-the-beaten-track destinations. The calendar also portrays Tourism Malaysia’s effort in embracing digitalisation by incorporating its digital platforms through QR codes and offering download options for each picturesque landscape displayed each month. The QR codes paired with every picture will bring users to dedicated articles on the locations along with recommendations for tourists. The downloadable pictures, on the other hand, allow users to utilise the calming sceneries as their desktop wallpapers, posters, and wall calendars.


Similarly, LADA has deservingly won the Heritage Award through its “Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark: The Diverse Heritage of Kubang Badak Biogeotrail” project. Being the first UNESCO Global Geopark in Southeast Asia, Langkawi is not only home to idyllic beaches but also a community of rich culture and heritage. On the southwest part of the island, one can find Langkawi’s Kubang Badak Biogeotrail. The project has brought forth the geological, biological, and cultural wonders of Kubang Badak Village. LADA has successfully brought to light the importance of biodiversity and how the local community responsibly rely on natural resources as their source of income, alongside their rich Malay-Thai culture that can be traced back to the 18th century. Carrying the influences of their Thai ancestors, Kubang Badak villagers are wellversed in the Thai language. Both the authorities and the community have worked together in conserving the environment and educating the public while practising responsible geotourism. A small fishing jetty at Kubang Badak Biogeo Trail, Langkawi (Photo by Naturally Langkawi)

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MR. SYED YAHYA SYED OTHMAN, Director Production, receiving the award on behalf of Tourism Malaysia

MR. AZMIL MUNIF MOHD BUKHARI, Manager of Tourism Division, receiving the award on behalf of LADA


ESCAPE + EXPLORE + EXPERIENCE

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Special Issue

021

GAYA Traveller’s

60th

Feature


GAYA Traveller First article in Gaya Travel Nusantara Issue 3.5

Must Do In Langkawi Island Hopping by Jet Ski with @megawatersports

Inside the Glass Bottom Gondola, Langkawi Sky Cab Cable Car - 2015

GAYA Traveller Fun Facts :

» Travelled to 55 countries » Gaya Traveller column began in December 2008 » 59 features to date » 22 features on domestic destination » 22 features on Asian countries » 6 features on European countries » 2 features on America » Only 1 feature on Africa continent » Most written about destination: TAIWAN (5 features)

A Negeri Sembilan delicacy, Gulai Daun Kayu.

The making of Manuk Pansuh

Lo and behold, our humble Gaya Traveller column has now hit the 60th issue mark! As a tribute to this achievement, we thought it would be nice to reminisce and take a walk down memory lane. At the time of writing, COVID-19 is still at large, and inter-state travel within Malaysia is limited. On the same note, international travel remains impossible, whether we have completed our vaccination or not. For the record, the two of us have received our second dose of vaccine in early September and are looking forward to travel to Kuala Lumpur from Johor Bahru at the very least! Looking at how things progress, we might temporarily shelve our plans to travel internationally because the quarantine requirement can be quite a hassle.

For people like us who enjoy doing research and making plans for travelling months ahead, the pandemic has clearly changed our habits and daily lives. Surely, we do miss many travel-related things, as you can see from our previous issue Gaya Traveller column in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 16.2: The Little Things We Miss. We took up new hobbies like edible gardening and cooking to occupy our time, and most importantly, to remain sane.

One thing that persists, pandemic or not, is our love for FOOD! We are always game in trying new food, provided it is halal and cause no allergies. We think it will be nice to highlight about food, especially the local dishes we savoured over the years. Come and join us when we take you back to the many destinations where we have set foot. For easy reference, we have organised our articles and categorise them according to continents.


GAYA Traveller Favourite Malaysian Resorts & spot(s):

» Belum Rainforest Resort, Perak » Terrapuri Heritage Village, Penarik, Terengganu » Anantara Desaru Coast Resort » Langkawi Sky Cab Cable Car » Mabul Island, Tawau Sabah » Kundasang, Sabah

The most featured state in our column is Sabah, followed by Langkawi. Sabah is famous for its fresh seafood, and the most unforgettable experience was buying crabs from the Bajau Laut (sea gypsy) children of Mabul Island. Many of our trips to Langkawi was to attend the International Laksa Festival (LILAC), which was indeed a feast for the tummy! Interestingly, we discovered that the local dishes in Negeri Sembilan, Perak and Pahang are similar because they use lots of coconut milk, turmeric and chillies, the three magical ingredients that can make anything delicious! As Johoreans born and bred, we gladly shared our favourite places to eat in Johor Bahru. The food of Johor is quite eclectic due to its rich history, and we were quite amazed to find familiar food when travelling abroad.

On Board North Borneo Railway Kota Kinabalu - 2012

#36. Mabul’s 52 Shades of Blue GTN Issue 10.2

Peranakan food is truly unique as it is a melting pot of two different cultures: Chinese and Malay. It is one of our favourite cuisines to savour whenever we are in Melaka. We also had the chance to make the iconic Manuk Pansuh (chicken and cassava leaves cooked in bamboo) when we visited Sarawak.

#9. A Taste of Sarawak GTN Issue 5.2 The Best Mee Rebus In Johor Bahru

#25. Sabah Revisited GTN Issue 8.1

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

MALAYSIA 2008

#1. Escape to Sabah #2. Cruising Along Sungai Linggi, Negeri Sembilan

2009

#3. Escape to Kuala Gandah, Pahang #4. Discover Perak #5. The Royal Gallery:Galeri DiRaja Sultan Abdul Aziz, Klang #6. Kuala Lumpur-A City of Many Faces

2010

#7. Trailing the Peranakan Heritage (Singapore) #8. At the Dining Table (Melaka) #9. A Taste of Sarawak #11. Klang Heritage Walk #12. Nov/Dec2010: Mainland Terengganu Attractions

2011

#13. Gaya Travellers Finally Set Foot in Sabah

2012

#22. Langkawi in #12 Hours, The Gaya Traveller’s Way

2013

#25. Sabah Revisited

2015 Must Eat When In Kota Kinabalu Buah Tarap

#36. Mabul’s 52 Shades of Blue #37. Escape to Putrajaya #38. Laid-Back Langkawi #42. Waking Up to Langkawi #43. Jalan- Jalan KL

2017

#44. Perak Glitters in 2017 #47. Belum Beckons in Harmony (Sheila Majid)

2019

#55. Starting at Zero: A JB Heritage and Food Trail Walkabout

2020

#58. An All-Girls Desaru Getaway


GAYA Traveller Favourite Airlines Snacks:

» China Airlines : Trail mix » Malaysia Airlines : Peanuts » Oman Air : Pies » Turkish Airlines : Sandwiches

List of Airlines we flew on:

A Walk on the Sky460m on Taipei 101 #57. The Halal Taipei Directory GTN Issue 15.1 Taiwan Beef Noodles

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The food of Asia is simply the best! Together we gained plenty of kilos feasting on all of the wonderful dishes in all of the Asian countries we visited. Though we travelled to almost all of the Southeast Asian countries, we only got to write about Thailand and Indonesia. We simply love the taste of Thai food and had the chance to attend a Thai cooking class when we were staying in Bangkok. It was one of the memorable activities during that trip. Indonesia was the country where we mostly frequented and it feels like second home. We look forward to having a bowl of Bubur Ayam (chicken porridge) for breakfast and a big plate of Iga Bakar (barbecued beef ribs) whenever we are in Indonesia. Eastern Asian countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have their own charm in the form of the beautiful Sakura (cherry

» Malaysia Airlines » Singapore Airlines » British Airways » Garuda Indonesia » Swiss Air » Royal Air Cambodge » Thai Airways » American Airlines » Continental Airlines » China Airlines » China Southern Airlines » Iceland Air » KLM » Air Maroc » Air France » Turkish Airlines » Qatar Airways » Qantas » Air New Zealand » Saudi Airlines » Royal Jordanian » Berjaya Air » Oman Air » Jet Blue Airways » Virgin Atlantic » Virgin America » Virgin Australia » Air Asia » Spice Jet » Easy Jet » Ryan Air » Jin Air » Pegasus Airlines » Vueling Airlines » Aer Lingus » Silk Air

blossoms) and convenience stores! We went to Japan specifically to hunt for Sakura but discovered a lot more. As Japanese food lovers, we were ecstatic to finally get a taste of authentic Japanese food. Interestingly, the dishes tasted similar to the ones we had in Malaysia. We even relished unique flavoured ice cream like Sakura and Lavender. Much of our time

Muat have in Vietnam, Beef Pho, Spring rolls, Bahn Mi and Iced Coffee.

was spent ogling at delectable-looking pastries and cakes at the departmental stores’ food courts. Taiwan is the most featured country in Gaya Traveller. We have been to Taiwan on invitation for four times, and each time we were fed very well by our host. Taiwan is serious in promoting its Halal tourism, and we are more than happy to help spread the word around. Taiwan’s fruits and vegetables are excellent and not to be missed. As followers of K-dramas, being in South Korea was surreal. We had travelled to three cities, Jeju, Busan and Seoul; each one is unique from the other. Halal local food is available, so we had plenty of Korean food like fried chicken, Tttobokki (rice cakes in hot sauce), and Bimbimbap (rice topped with plenty of side dishes). The most memorable dish was Haemul Jeongol (seafood hot pot) where the abalone was still alive when it arrived at our table. Moving down to Southern Asia, we did three articles on India, and indeed the food we had in India was divine! We tasted our first ever poori in India and was instantly hooked on it. We love the simple food preparation in Kashmir the most, not too heavily spiced and we enjoyed the freshness of the ingredients. The food of Turkey was equally fantastic! Who knew Western Asian cuisine could be so delicious? We ate different versions of kebabs as we travelled across the country, and their desserts like Baklava, rice pudding, Turkish Delights are not to be missed.


GAYA Traveller Essential Travel Apps & Website: » Skyscanner » HotelsCombined » Booking.com » Waze » Google Maps » Google Translate » Uber » Netflix & Spotify

We shared our journey to three other Western Asia countries: Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia (for our Hajj). In Oman, we had the chance to visit a local barbecue house, where camel meat is cured and barbecued the traditional way. We were also introduced to Oman’s traditional sweets called Halwa, and it dawned upon us how similar it was to Halwa Maskat, a traditional Johorean sweet, whereby the word ‘Maskat’ could even be derived from Muscat, the capital port city of Oman. Since Dubai is practically the Halal version of America, we took the opportunity to eat burgers at American big chains like The Cheesecake Factory.

Lombok, Indonesia

ASIA 2010

#10. Laid Back Krabi

2011

Jeju Island, South Korea 2018

#26. Lombok-The Misunderstood Paradise Issue 12.6 Delicious Sundanese cuisine in Garut; Nasi Liwet, deep fried fish served with sambal.

#14. Majestic India #15. Kashmir, A Diamond in the Rough #16. Opulent Charm – Agra & Jaipur #17. Turkish Delights – Istanbul, Bursa, Pamukkale #18. Turkish Delights, Part 2: Konya, Ankara & Cappadocia

2012

#23. Garut- The Road Less Travelled

2013

#26. Lombok-The Misunderstood Paradise #27.Bangkok – The City Breakaway #28. Charming & Magnificent Sultanate of Oman

2014

#29. Dynamic Dubai

2015

#35. Journey of the Hujjaj

GAYA Traveller Recommends: When is the best time to visit Asian countries? » Dubai Winter time (November – April) » Cambodia Cool season (November -Feb) » Taiwan Cherry blossom season (March-May) » India Winter (November – March)

2016

#40. Blooming Japan #41. Time for Taiwan!

2017 GAYA Traveller Fun Facts

We had taken a total of six Oman Air flights during our 10-day trip. The types of aircraft include Airbus A330-300s, Boeing 737700s and Embraer E175.

#45. How to Shop Like a Pro in Ho Chi Minh’s Markets #46. Taiwan, Where Muslims Can Travel with Peace of Mind

2018

#48. Taiwan Take Three #52. Self-Driving in Scenic Jeju

2019 Must Eat When in Oman Omani Traditional Barbeque!

Omanis barbeque their meat directly on top of a mount of hot pebbles - no marinade is necessary, just add salt.

#53. Discovering Bustling Busan in 3 Days #54. Beginner’s Guide to Seoul #56. Taipei, An Up-and-Coming Muslim-Friendly Destination

2020

#57. The Halal Taipei Directory

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Lessons We Learnt :

NORTH AMERICA 2012

#20. We Love New York #21. California Dreamin’ We spent a good four weeks travelling across the United States of America, and experienced all mode of transportation available: buses, trains, planes and rented car. Throughout this journey, we consumed a lot of food, the memorable ones include a crab at the all-you-can-eat buffet in Virginia, the comforting clam chowder in San Francisco, hot dogs in Times Square New York, and Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding!

+ WE

NY +

#20. We Love New York GTN Issue 7.2 All-you-can-eat crab buffet in Virginia

» Always check visa requirements » Always check weather forecasts & pack accordingly » Always check on the accommodation’s elevator /lift availability » Always wear comfortable shoes » Always carry an umbrella/rain jacket and a hand towel in your bag » Book an accommodation with laundry facilities every other day » Take a taxi to get to the airport » In extreme cold weather, keep at least two sets of spare camera batteries in the inner pocket of your jacket. This is to prolong their life.

Chefchaouen, Morocco 026

AFRICA 2018

#50. M is for Morocco Exotic Morocco is the only African country that we have visited thus far and we had the opportunity to be there twice. Interestingly, some of the food found in Morocco are quite close to Malaysian dishes, for instance Msemen, which looks like Roti Canai, or Ghriba that tastes like Sugee cookies! Our favourite meal to have in Morocco is the Beef Tagine, tender chunks of beef slowly cooked with prunes and apricots in the country’s signature earthen cookware called tagine. Since Moroccans use plenty of spices in their food, we were mesmerised with the numerous variations of spice mixes found in the local markets. We are happy to report that we have adopted the Moroccan way of eating oranges: skinned-off, sliced horizontally (instead of the usual wedges) and sprinkled with cinnamon powder!

Our favourite meal to have in Morocco is the Beef Tagine

Msemen, which looks like “Roti Canai”

#50. M for Morocco GTN Issue 13.2

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco 2016


GAYA Traveller Recommends:

Trdelnik; we loved it so much, we had it everyday when we were in Prague!

» Apple Pie Mcdonagh’s Fish & Chips, Latin Quarter, Galway in Ireland » Chocolate & Churros Chocolateria San Gines, Madrid in Spain. » Hot Chocolate Angelina, Paris in France » Ice Cream Murphy’s Ice Cream in Ireland » Taiwan Halal Beef Noodles Chang’s Beef Noodle, Taipei City in Taiwan

The best food discovery we had in Eastern European cities of Prague in Czech Republic and Budapest in Hungary was the uniquely shaped bread called Tredlnik / Trdlo, made from rolled dough that is then wrapped around a stick and then grilled and topped with sugar and spices – truly comforting during cold winter nights.

EUROPE 2014

#31. Phenomenal Prague #32. Braving Budapest #33. Switzerland on a Budget #34. The Handsome Highlands of Scotland

2017

#49. Chasing Auroras in Iceland

2018

#51. Idyllic Ireland in 9 Days

Countries like Switzerland, Scotland, Iceland and Ireland have sprawling beautiful views through and through. We were glad that we took time to enjoy the countries, city by city. To us, the food choices found in these European countries are more or less the same; we enjoyed eating kebabs and sandwiches since they are convenient when we were on the go. We thoroughly enjoyed fresh produce (dairy, seafood and of course, seasonal fruits) including desserts; do ask us where to find the best apple pies!

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Skógafoss, Iceland 2016

Good to know:

Traditional Moroccan porcelain plates and dishes in Fez

Zürich, Switzerland

What we always pack in our backpack when travelling... » 3 sets of clothing » Bath towel & nice toiletries » Extra pair of shoes & slippers » Supplements & medications » Laundry stuff » Sandwich bags » Plastic Cutleries » Snacks & dry food » Rain jacket or umbrella

#33. Switzerland on a Budget GTN Issue 9.5

Isle of Skye, Scotland.


GENERAL 2012

#19. The Gaya Travellers Getaway Pick #24. Gaya Traveller’s 2013 Travel Wishlist

2014

#30. Discovering UNESCO Heritage Sites

2016

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia 2016

#39. Hello, 2016!

2021

#59. The Little Things We Miss

#30. Discovering UNESCO World Heritage Sites GTN Issue 9.2

Some articles do not specifically refer to a particular destination, but it is based on our experiences, thoughts and hopes. We are glad to report that we managed to strike out some of the countries we had on our wishlist, while the rest are still work in progress. We are very humbled and honoured to have come this far, travelling and sharing our experiences with our readers. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We hope Gaya Traveller will be able to share more of our journeys in the future.

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GAYA Traveller Recommends: Top 3 Resorts to go (within Johor) once MCO restrictions is lifted: » One&Only Desaru Coast, Kota Tinggi » Rawa Island Resort, Mersing » Batu Batu Resort, Pulau Tengah, Mersing

What’s New in Johor Bahru: Must Eat When in Perak & Johor

» Nasi Ganja & Caramel Custard Pudding at Kedai Kopi Yong Suan in Ipoh » Grilled Fish at Restoran Tasik Raban, Lenggong in Perak » Deep Fried Chicken Chop with Mushroom Sauce at IT Roo Cafe in Johor Bahru

» Sunway Hotel Big Box » Holiday Inn Johor Bahru » Hard Rock Cafe, Iskandar Puteri » Johor Bahru City Centre / Heritage Street » Hutan Bandar MBJB / Tunku Mahkota Ismail Youth Centre (TMIYC) » Galeri Seni Johor (Johor Art Gallery) » B5 Johor Street Market

Fully Vaccinated, September 2021 HSA Johor Bahru

Get yourself vaccinated and stay safe.

xoxo

GAYA Traveller


Gaya Special Feature

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Enhancing Islamic To u r i s m E x p e r i e n c e Through The Muslim-Friendly To u r G u i d e P r o g r a m m e Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) is an entity under the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, tasked to develop the Islamic tourism segment for the nation. It advocates Muslim-friendly tourism (MFT) by offering research and market intelligence, training, industry development consultation, Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality (MFTH) service standards and certification, and information exchange. In 2021, ITC was named the recipient of the Strategic Business Alliance Award at The BrandLaureate World Halal Best Brand E-Branding Awards 2021. It is a recognition of ITC’s efforts and endeavours in formulating new strategies to meet the new normal of the business environment to ensure business continuity and sustainability, notwithstanding its role to develop and grow the Islamic tourism segment in Malaysia. In addition, Malaysia was named top country in the region in the MFT sector by the State of the Global Islamic Economy (SGIE) Report 2020/21. Malaysia also retained the topranked destination in the MasterCard-CrescentRating Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) 2021, a position it has defended since the launch of the Index in 2015. These recognitions are an added motivation for ITC to continue to strengthen its efforts in being a prime mover and leading institution to ensure Malaysia is at the forefront of MFTH.


To understand more, Gaya Travel Magazine sits with the Director-General of Islamic Tourism Centre Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hasan to find out more about ITC’s latest moves, the organisation’s role in cementing Malaysia’s leading position as a Muslimfriendly destination, and enhancing the local tour guides’ competencies to meet the global Muslim market demands. Gaya Travel: What are ITC’s current projects? What are ITC’s plans to revive Islamic tourism in Malaysia once the borders reopen? Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip: The pandemic brought upon us a new challenge, and with it, a rare opportunity -- to do things differently. With the advent of the digital age, ITC has embraced this wave by taking to digital platforms to carry out its events and activities, all of which are designed to present new opportunities in the horizon with regards to Islamic Tourism. Allow me to begin by sharing that on 8 July 2021, ITC held its inaugural ITC Corporate Forum (ITCF) entitled Women in Islamic Tourism Economy (WITE) – in conjunction with the lead-up to the Islamic Tourism Outlook Conference 2022 – to advocate and give recognition to the role of women in Islamic Tourism and the economy. It also shed more light on the importance of catering to the needs of female Muslim tourists as well as involving more women in the tourism workforce. As part of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) subregional cooperative institution, ITC also conducted a webinar, on 19 August 2021, entitled “Understanding Muslim-friendly Tourism” to promote MFTH in the region, and it witnessed a commendable reception from participants not just in ASEAN alone, but also other parts of the world such as Central Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The event was also intended to be among the pioneer steps towards achieving a common understanding of the MFTH concept and standards among the three nations.

Director General, Islamic Tourism Centre, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan

Throughout June until August 2021, ITC even organised webinars as part of the Muslimfriendly Malaysia webinar series, with target audience being destination management organisations in ASEAN and local Malaysian tourism stakeholders. All our knowledgesharing sessions are aimed towards getting the industry prepared for travel reopening, by being better equipped with necessary knowledge and intelligence, particularly where Islamic Tourism is concerned. Recently on 24 August, ITC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Institut Pengajian Islam & Dakwah Sabah (IPDAS), an agency under Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) on a virtual platform. The collaboration is part of our human capital development initiatives to nurture a generation of leaders who are well-informed and well-equipped to lead the tourism industry, particularly Islamic Tourism, in the future. All in all, the abovementioned initiatives, among many others, are in line with ITC’s new business philosophy for 2021-2025 “New thinking, New actions, New results” - and it shows ITC is riding on the wave of digitalisation in delivering our initiatives whilst conforming to the necessities under the new norm.

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Gaya Travel: How is ITC’s current relationship with the tourism industry players? In what ways does ITC add value to the Islamic Tourism industry? Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip: The COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the global tourism industry. As a government agency, ITC continues to maintain close relations with industry players whilst providing motivation and support through this challenging period via continuous knowledge sharing of the latest intelligence and information with regards to tourism reopening. In addition, we also engage in the sharing of best practices and relevant upskilling and reskilling initiatives. Our efforts are geared towards the strengthening of the industry and to share opportunities in Islamic Tourism that can be tapped into.

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As said earlier, in 2021, we introduced the new philosophy of “New thinking, New actions, New results” in response to a new industry landscape. Among the basic principles are to focus on cooperation with stakeholders, strengthening ties with industry, and fortifying the ITC branding both at home and abroad. Since 2020 last year, Alhamdulillah ITC has marked several new milestones: Expanded the Muslim-Friendly Tourism scope to include Hospitality as well, hence the coining of the term MFTH alongside its application in terms of definition, standards development, branding, business concept, etc.

Registered ITC with the Human Resource Development Corporation (HRD Corp) under the Ministry of Human Resource Malaysia as an MFTH Training Provider to strengthen ITC’s role in capacity building, domestically and internationally.

YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri officiates the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition logo launch on 3 Sep 2020, witnessed by Datuk Wira Dr. Noor Zari Hamat, Sec-Gen of MOTAC, and Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hasan, DG of ITC

Strengthened our recognition programme, the Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR), with strategic marketing and branding efforts through the launch of MFAR official logo and online seminars. To date, ITC has recognised 44 hotels in Malaysia as Muslim-friendly, comprising local and international brands and we see that the interest among hoteliers is growing. • Conducted MFTH training during the pandemic for local and international clients, including governments, tourism boards, academia, tourism industry supply chain, etc. by providing a broad view of the Muslim tourist market potential, its role in the reopening of tourism, and how tourism industry players should respond to benefit from it.

Commissioned academic and applied research to delve deeper into various aspects of Islamic Tourism.

Collaborated with tourism industry associations and academia/training institutions to strengthen the Islamic Tourism landscape while preparing the new generation with skills and knowledge based on Islamic Tourism.

Guests staying at MFAR hotels have triple assurance -- from MOTAC, JAKIM, and ITC


Gaya Travel: Could you kindly share with us how the MFTG certification came about? Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip: The MFTG certification is rooted in the Malaysian Standard MS2610, the standard which provides guidelines for managing tourism facilities, products, and services to meet the needs of Muslim travellers. The scope of standard has three main components: Accommodation, Tour Packages and Tour Guides. Allow me to step away from MFTG, by firstly elaborating how ITC has gone about implementing the standard in its course of dealings. For the Accommodation segment, ITC has launched the above-mentioned Muslim-Friendly Accommodation Recognition (MFAR) where hotels and accommodations can apply for the Muslim-friendly recognition. Among the local and international hotels across Malaysia that have adopted this MFAR initiative are Tamu Hotel & Suites Kuala Lumpur; The Light Hotel Penang; Perdana Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Perdana Kota Bahru; Sunway Hotels & Resorts; Mardhiyyah Hotel & Suites Shah Alam; The Pearl Kuala Lumpur; The Zenith Hotel Putrajaya; Première Hotel Klang; Attana Hotels & Resorts; Raia Hotels; Grand Ion Delemen Hotel in Genting Highlands; Mövenpick Hotel and Convention Centre KLIA; DoubleTree by

ITC organised a webinar for the IndonesiaMalaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) on 19 August to inform audiences of the huge potential in Islamic Tourism and MuslimFriendly Tourism within the sub-region.

Participants attend a live tour during ITC’s Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide course. Picture by Raja Mohd Hafiz

Hilton Kuala Lumpur; Pullman Kuching and Pullman Miri Waterfront; Amari Johor Bahru; Grand DarulMakmur Hotel Kuantan; Lotus Desaru Beach Resort & Spa; Adya Hotel Langkawi; Resorts World Langkawi; and Hyatt Regency Kinabalu. When it comes to Tour Packages, ITC has formulated the Muslim-friendly Tourism Products and Hospitality Packages (MFT ProHPack) that are specifically designed for consumers in the niche Muslim travel market. Regarding the Tour Guides, the credentials to qualify as an MFTG include a valid license, relevant skills, language competency and legal requirements. In addition, guides should be able to address the needs of Muslim travellers such as keeping them informed of prayer times, facilitating time for them to perform prayers, ensuring restaurants and eateries are Halal-certified, and providing Halal food whenever such food is not readily available. In short, MS2610 is aimed at enhancing the ability of entities to produce and manage Muslim-friendly tourism products and services that comply with Shariah principles, preserving the integrity of Muslim-friendly tourism products and services through effective application of the standard, and to enhance the experience and satisfaction of customers by meeting their niche needs and requirements.

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Gaya Travel: In your opinion, what are the attributes of the ideal MFTG? What competencies and skill sets should an excellent MFTG possess? Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip: The niche faith-based needs of the Muslim tourists or travellers can be easily summed up in two factors: Halal food and prayer facilities. In addition, the behaviour of consumers in this niche market is exhibited by a tendency to travel in large groups, propensity to spend more and have longer stays. An MFTG, ideally, would start off by planning tour arrangements that consider Muslim clients’ prayer times and their gastronomic needs, which is Halal food and with it, they can acquire knowledge on the difference between what foods are Halal and Haram. 034

From there, MFTGs can expand their knowledge to Islamic-related terms commonly used such as wudhu or ablution, and the names of the five prayer times – Subuh, Zohor, Asar, Maghrib and Isyak – in order to accommodate the needs of clients and engage with them better, hence making their stay and experience a more wholesome and comfortable one. In addition, knowledge on ethics and practices with regards to Muslims’ way of life would come in handy, for instance, greeting them with “Assalamu’alaikum” and “Wa’alaikumsalam”, and refraining from shaking hands or making physical contact with the opposite gender. Just like your regular tour guide, MFTGs must possess good communication skills to build rapport with clients. However, allow me to reiterate that the aforementioned niche set of knowledge would better equip MFTGs in daily dealings with their clients.

24 August 2021 marked a momentous occasion for ITC when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) on human capital development in the Islamic Tourism industry and the enhancement of Islamic Tourism-related programmes and curriculum in tertiary education.

YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri delivering her keynote address at the ITC Corporate Forum on the theme of Women in the Islamic Tourism Economy on 8 July 2021


Gaya Travel: What improvements has ITC made on the programme over the years? Is ITC planning to expand the MFTG certification programme? What is the future of the programme? Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip: As recently as February 2021, ITC conducted a refresher course for MFTGs in aspects of health and safety, particularly basic life support (BLS) skills. This is an extension of the regular training programme itself, to equip MFTGs with additional hands-on skills in their course of work. All along, regular modules in training programmes for MFTGs have covered an extensive range of topics: • Concept of Islamic Tourism and its elements • Basic Islamic principles • Islamic Code of Ethics • Communication skills • Requirements of Muslim travellers • Muslim-friendly hospitality services as per MS2610 However, ITC has embarked on a journey to improve the MFTG training programme, taking into account the current landscape of the industry especially after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, the training will provide more focus on: • Introduction to MFTH

Understanding of different types of Muslim travellers -- those who travel alone, in groups, in pairs, the different age groups and backgrounds Basic principles of Halal and MFTH products and services in Malaysia

Moreover, we are looking to recalibrate our training courses by placing more focus on tour guides themselves, including the current scenario of the tourism sector, by shining more light on Malaysia’s solid base as the top Muslim-friendly destination alongside its unique offerings and potentials, and the ways in which MFTGs can leverage upon them in their profession. As an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in Islamic Tourism and MFTH, ITC is humbled to have the MFTG initiative rolled out and to witness it garnering traction among industry players. Moving forward, we would like to strengthen our role in this regard and take the lead in improving the representation and quality of MFTGs themselves, notwithstanding the content and input of our MFTG training courses as well. By getting more tour guides on board this initiative, we hope to create a more sustainable and inclusive tourism industry, in line with the aspirations of the National Tourism Policy (NTP) 2020-2030.

Director General of ITC, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hasan giving the opening remarks to the MFTG refresher course aimed at equipping tour guides with life-saving skills MFTG course participants learn about CPR techniques and how to handle crises

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Gaya Special Feature

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M u s l i m - F r i e n d l y To u r G u i d e s A t Wo r k Putting Knowledge Into Practice Being the recipient of the Strategic Business Alliance Award under World’s Best Halal Brands 2021 by The BrandLaureate, the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) has been relentless in its pursuit to stimulate Islamic tourism and Malaysia as an exciting Muslim-friendly destination. Realising how critical the tour guides are in the whole tourism equation because they can directly make or break tourists’ experience, ITC issues the Muslim-friendly Tour Guide (MFTG) certification to those who are keen to serve the global Muslim market while expanding their competencies and acumen. The MFTG certification allows tour guides and travel operators to understand the Muslim tourists at a deeper level. Part of the training syllabus include understanding Muslim travellers’ expectations and increasing awareness towards what constitutes Halal, including how to appropriately behave around their Muslim clients. Armed with such knowledge, the tour guides can create fulfilling tour programmes and itineraries that specifically revolve around the needs of the Muslim travellers. To understand more about MFTG certification’s merits and contributions to Islamic tourism, Gaya Travel Magazine talks to four experienced MFTG-certified tour guides who have been serving international clients, including non-Malaysian Muslims, in the course of their work: Chin Poh Chin, Ab Razak bin Abu Bakar, Deanna Chin Mee Lian, and Raja Mohd Hafiz bin Raja Nasharuddin.


WAITING FOR THE BORDERS TO OPEN “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism went to a slump not only in our country but globally because of travel restrictions. While waiting for the pandemic to subside, I conduct virtual tours through http://exploremalaysiavirtually.com/, a site created by LokaLocal,” city guide Deanna shares.

Tour Guide Deanna Chin Mee Lian

Poh Chin, who is the President of Penang Tour Guide Association (PTGA), informs that her association is “planning to run Virtual Tours soon to introduce places of interest in Penang online and to keep the passion towards the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ alive.” Raja Mohd Hafiz currently works as a Technical Lecturer at PMD International College Sdn Bhd (PMDIC) in UiTM Sarawak, Kota Samarahan Campus 2. “Besides, I teach and train students who bring Muslim tourists to Saudi Arabia, especially for Umrah trips to Makkah and Madinah. I also did virtual tours on the topic of Negeri Sembilan twice, specialising in its history, culture and unique matrilineal tradition,” he adds. Ab Razak, who has been MFTG-certified since 2018, implores the Malaysian tourism industry players, officials and policy makers to use the downtime during lockdown to strategise themselves so that they can build back their businesses once the borders reopen to ensure that Malaysia remains competitive as an international tourism destination, especially when other destinations within the region like Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines are fast catching up. “Of course, to adapt to the current border closures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Malaysia, many guides and industry players have resorted to conducting digital walking tours to maintain the global audience’s interest towards the destination. However, I am sure many would agree that the satisfaction derived from following the digital walking tours is not the same as physically being there,” observes Ab Razak.

Tour Guide Chin Poh Chin

Tour guides learn hands-on about how to develop specialised tours for Muslim tourists in the ITC Muslim-Friendly Tour Guides course. Picture by Chin Poh Chin

The ITC Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide course is an eye-opening course on the Muslim tourist market potential, needs and requirements. Picture by Chin Poh Chin

MUSLIM MARKET POTENTIAL Deanna notes that Islamic tourism is a rapidly growing market. Muslim citizens have a global population of 1.8 billion across Muslim-majority countries that includes Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East. By 2030, it is estimated that Muslims would make up 26.5% of the world’s population. According to the study by CrescentRating, there are approximately 1 billion Muslims under the age of 30, whereby 60% of them form the Millennial group. A parallel research by MasterCard in 2017 estimates that the total expenditure in Islamic tourism across the world could surpass the United States by a hundred billion in 2025; the overall Muslim Travel segment is projected to reach USD300 billion by 2026 globally. This comprehensive report assesses the potential of the Muslim Millennials Market for tourism destinations, tour operators, airlines and the tourism industry stakeholders, attesting to the significance of Islamic tourism. Though the terminology of Islamic tourism has no clear boundaries, Malaysia shapes its own Islamic tourism by upholding Islamic values without erasing Malaysia’s distinctiveness and originality. As an extension to this, Islamic Tourism Centre defines Islamic Tourism as a sphere of interest, activity or event that is related to travel, tourism and hospitality to explore Islamic history, arts, culture, heritage, economy, education, health and wellness, business, civilisation, signs of the Almighty’s creations, and/or to experience the Islamic way of life in conformity with the Islamic faith. Deanna believes the country has what it takes to remain as a leading Muslim-friendly destination featuring Muslim-friendly hotels, Halal food, prayer facilities, familyfriendly entertainment, safety and security. “Malaysia has made a great effort in developing its Islamic tourism by organising the first OIC Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition in 2010, followed by events such as Islamic Fashion Festival (IFF), Halal Showcase, and World Islamic Tourism Mart. The country has been hosting various regional seminars on Islamic tourism as well,” she recounts. Likewise, Poh Chin has been witnessing the Muslim market’s fast growth in the last decade, especially from China, Indonesia, Thailand, America and Europe, which are home to affluent Muslims who have the means to travel and speak non-Arabic languages like Chinese and English. In fact, Ab Razak gauges that the Chinese Muslim market

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holds such a large potential and can be easily tapped by Malaysia considering the nation is Muslim-friendly (Halal food and Islamic facilities are widely available) and provides Malaysian tour guides who are fluent in Mandarin. When evaluating the global Muslim market, tourism destinations need not overstretch themselves by casting their nets worldwide but instead concentrate on selected source markets, especially those closer to home. “There are about 1.9 billion global Muslim population worldwide, definitely a big market for Malaysia. In 2019, Malaysia received RM86.14 billion in tourist receipts on the back of 26.1 million tourist arrivals. Out of this, 17.88 million arrivals were from ASEAN alone. When we zoom in, Indonesia on its own has 229 million Muslims out of 276.4 million population. Even if we focus and strategise to invite only Muslims from Indonesia, this is already a huge market to venture into. It should be fruitful for Malaysia to focus on meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) because Indonesian corporations love to tour Malaysia. It is cheaper for them to do so since air tickets to other destinations within Indonesia can be more expensive than visiting Malaysia,” Raja Mohd Hafiz analyses.

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Apart from Muslims in Indonesia and the ASEAN region, Raja Mohd Hafiz prompts the Malaysian tourism industry players to not forget Muslim tourists from other parts of the world, for example Saudi Arabia with its 31.9 million Muslim population, Morocco (37.93 million) and Algeria (41.2 million Muslims). “It is worth noting that Saudi Arabian tourists – though they only registered 121,444 tourist arrivals to Malaysia in 2019 – contribute high tourism receipts for the country, with Saudi families staying longer, between seven and 14 days, and spending more. As long as we cater to their needs, two weeks’ vacation in Malaysia is nothing. They might even stay longer,” he explains. Raja Mohd Hafiz further cites the French-speaking and Arabicspeaking tourists from Northern Africa as target markets. “They love Malaysia because food is easy. They also love the night markets, the beaches, and the availability of Muslim-friendly facilities. We have guides who speak Arabic, and some can even speak French,” he claims. When it comes to promoting Malaysia to the global Muslim market, Deanna is confident that it can be done easily due to the country’s appeal. “Given its central location bordering Thailand, the South China Sea, Brunei and Indonesia, it is hard to resist. Malaysia has mixture of cultures and ethnicities. One can explore colonial architectures amidst

Tour Guide Raja Mohd Hafiz bin Raja Nasharuddin (left) with guests from the Middle East.

thriving modern cities, relax on the beautiful and unspoilt beaches. For the more adventurous, they can go diving, hiking through lush green jungles, exploring caves and more. The possibility is endless,” she raves. Deanna proposes that Malaysia should continue banking on its multiculturalism and the different ethnic groups living in harmony, culturally enriching one another. “Malaysia is a hub for biodiversity, history and culture. We could even speak by stringing English, Tamil, Chinese and Malay words in one sentence. Malaysians are united not by blood but by behaviour and attitude when we address any of our elders as ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’. It has enthralling stories and folklores, alongside rich cuisines that stimulate your taste buds, making it fascinating and memorable. After all, Malaysia is Truly Asia,” she deduces. OPTING FOR MFTG CERTIFICATION “When ITC announced they were organising a Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide training programme, it caught my curiosity at that time and I was eager to find out what it was all about. My initial intention was to learn and understand about this new segment in the tourism industry,” recalls Deanna. “The MFTG certification opens my eyes to the fact that Islamic tourism is not defined as just visiting mosques alone, but include activities relating to nature, culture or creativity that is acceptable in Islam. Islamic tourism is not just limited to religious tourism but comprises tours based on Shariah (Islamic law) and Islamic values,” she adds. During the MFTG training by ITC, Deanna confesses that she learned the most important components of Islamic tourism such as Halal hotel compliance, Halal food, Halal packaging, Halal transportation and Halal finance. “Halal means lawful or permitted as opposed to Haram (forbidden), thereby the item must be good for the human being, socially responsible, and fit for consumption, processing, producing, cleansing, making, manufacturing, and storing in line with the Shariah. As such, it is imperative for me to deliver proper requirements for Muslim travellers,” she expounds.

As a non-Muslim tour guide, the ITC Muslim-Friendly Tour Guide course really opened up my understanding and perception in handling this niche tourist market and in providing Muslim-friendly tourism services in compliance with Shariah laws,” said Chin Poh Chin (second from left).

“The training has enlightened me on the basic knowledge pertaining to the principles of Hukm Taklifi (law that governs the conduct of Muslims by way of command or option) that has five elements: Wajib (obligatory), such as five-time prayer or fasting in the month of Ramadhan; Mandub (encouraged to be practiced but not punishable if not performed), for example giving charity, and Duha prayer; Haram


Levant before the COVID-19 pandemic hit global tourism. Since I was part of the original batch of guides who worked with Kuala Lumpur City Hall to offer walking tours and heritage trails in the city, I plan to bring more Muslim tourists along such tours and trails, especially around Kampung Baru, so that they can immerse themselves in the destination more intimately,” he discloses.

Tour Guide Ab Razak bin Abu Bakar with the iconic Masjid Jamek in the distance.

(impermissible and must be avoided) for instance consuming usury (Riba) or not respecting parent; Makruh (disapproved but not as severe as haram) like swearing; and Mubah (neutral or permitted), for example eating at night during Ramadhan. These fundamental principles have significantly challenged my core idea as a guide; now I realise that I must take cognisance of Muslims’ compulsory (wajib) practices when travelling. Therefore, as a tourist guide, there’s a paradigm shift in my guiding practice; one has to become more aware and sensitive within this framework in order to have a successful assignment,” Deanna elaborates at length. Besides Deanna, Poh Chin also benefits from the MFTG training. “As a certified Muslim-friendly tour guide, I’m more aware of the special needs of Muslim travellers and how to cater for them from culinary to religious requirements. ITC’s training equips me with the essential knowledge in dealing with Muslim travellers and how to design the itinerary following their needs in terms of Halal food, location of mosques for prayer, and things to avoid. It helps me to come up with niche offerings like ‘ladies only’ tours, which Muslim tourists may find appealing,” she declares. Raja Mohd Hafiz is enthusiastic about the Muslim market potential. “The interest has always been there, and the MFTG certification couldn’t have arrived at a more suitable timing. I was and am still interested in Islamic tourism because the world needs to know to what extent a tour guide can accommodate the needs of Muslim travellers, no matter where they come from. We are ready, and we welcome all Muslim tourists to Malaysia,” Raja Mohd Hafiz assures. “From the MFTG training delivered by ITC, we learned about the basic needs of Muslim tourists, from Halal meals to prayer rooms or halls. In addition, we learned that the Malaysia ‘Halal’ certification does not only mean ‘Permissible’ in Islam. It means the food must be of good quality (halalan toyyiban). The training exposes us to Islamic touristic spots and how to present these spots in better light. For example, we were trained to take tourists to landmark mosques in Kuala Lumpur, but we don’t just leave them there. They’d learn more about Islam in Malaysia and what do the mosques mean to the local community, including their history and architecture. Combining sights and sounds with excellent guided tour equals to a fantastic Islamic tourism experience,” he exclaims. By the same token, the MFTG certification allows Ab Razak to expand his business and clientele. “Having been certified as a MuslimFriendly Tour Guide (MFTG) by ITC for almost four years, I had the opportunity to serve the Muslim tourists from Egypt, Turkey and the

“ITC has done a good job in organising useful seminars and courses to upskill the tour guides, for instance how to administer first aid and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The training received from ITC makes the guides, especially the non-Muslims, more sensitive towards the needs of the Muslim tourists or travellers such as food requirements and prayer times,” praises Ab Razak. As an organisation, ITC is approachable, actively listens to and works closely with the actual people who are on the ground, in this case the guides and industry players. “I hope ITC can hold more dialogue sessions between ITC and the tour guides because such sessions are productive. ITC should become the conduit where tourist guides and industry players can channel their views to mosques or Islamic tourism attractions on how to improve themselves,” Ab Razak suggests. Possessing the MFTG certificate makes the tourist guides hopeful of the future as well. “Though the number of tourists dwindles due to the pandemic, many international Muslims still voice their interest to visit Penang when the situation improves and fully vaccinated tourists are allowed to enter Malaysia,” adds Poh Chin. The similar tune is echoed by Ab Razak. “I have been receiving many queries from overseas, especially from the Netherlands and Middle East, on when the Malaysian borders are going to open again so that tourists can return, which up to this point, is still uncertain. It is heartening to learn that many overseas tourists are looking forward to visiting Malaysia once it is safe to do so, indicating that Malaysia still holds its allure as an attractive tourism destination,” he concurs. In short, the MFTG certification enriches the tour guides intellectually due to the depth of knowledge gained about Islam and economically because they can tap on the large Muslim market potential. The MFTG training programme inadvertently moulds the guides into little ambassadors of Islamic tourism, irrespective of their background or creed.

The old Palace of Seri Menanti is the tallest timber palace in Malaysia with over 100 years of history. Picture by Army Museum Port Dickson

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Based on her newfound knowledge of Muslim travellers’ needs, Deanna painstakingly ensures that her Muslim guests’ accommodation has signage indicating the Qiblah (direction pointing to Mecca), Sajadah (Muslim prayer mat), and bidet in the bathroom or at least water hose next to the commode for easy washing. When taking her Muslim guests on tours, she keeps track of the prayer times and where they could comfortably perform their prayers. She is also mindful not to expose them to non-halal activities like gambling or drinking, and the places should be safe and secure, free from Islamophobia, and foster interaction with the locals. If her Muslim guests travel to Malaysia during Ramadhan (Muslim fasting month), she makes it a point to provide her guests with sahur (pre-dawn meal as preparation for fasting during the day) and dates alongside proper meal when it is time for iftar (breaking of fast at dusk).

A group of tourists with robes entering the much loved Masjid Putra, popularly known as the Pink Mosque, in Putrajaya.

Meanwhile, Ab Razak tries to follow his clients’ interests as much as possible when they follow the package tour itinerary. “For example, if they were interested to witness the architecture of the mosques in Malaysia, I will arrange for them to visit sites that are quintessentially Malaysian such as Masjid Jamek and the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, including Masjid Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, popularly known as the Iron Mosque, in Putrajaya. International Muslim tourists are more interested to explore landmarks that specifically represent the Malaysian character, style and identity,” he affirms.

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When it comes to serving the Muslim tourists, Raja Mohd Hafiz drills in the point that Muslims all over the world essentially seek tour destinations that fulfil their travel needs and they are willing to invest their money to have their vacation at touristic spots that are not only worth their time but pleasurable in accordance with Islamic values. “Based on my experience, Muslim travellers are mostly families who want a safe, enjoyable and relaxing tours. Our guarantee that their basic Islamic needs like abiding to prayer times, availability of prayer rooms and Halal meals will persuade them to stay longer and even visit Malaysia again in the future. By meeting their needs, they would pass the good news about Malaysia being a Muslim-friendly destination to their friends. Nothing beats ‘word-ofmouth’ marketing,” he beams. “As Muslim-friendly tourist guides, we cater to their prayer times and where they could conduct mandatory prayers. In addition, we explain to them about Islam in Malaysia, its sights, significant and historical places related to Islam, including attending Islamic talks and lectures at mosques in Malaysia if they were inclined to that,” reveals Raja Mohd Hafiz. He continues to explain that advising where to obtain Halal meal is a must, even though Malaysia is a Muslim majority country and finding Halal meal is not a problem. “Considering Malaysia is a multireligious society, we dispense guidance on which good Halal food to be enjoyed and where. We even have a list of Muslim-friendly hotels where the pools are segregated by gender, based on time or location. If they want exclusivity, Muslim couples can enjoy in privacy by booking selected accommodations in Malaysia that come with en-suite pools,” Raja Mohd Hafiz discloses.

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia houses over seven thousand exceptional artefacts of Islamic civilisation from Asia and the Middle East.


WHERE MUSLIM TOURISTS SHOULD GO IN MALAYSIA Starting with Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, Deanna encourages first-time Muslim tourists to Malaysia to begin at the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which represent the combination of modern technology and Islamic symbolism through their steel and glass façade designed to resemble motifs found in Islamic art. One of the towers is fully owned by Malaysia’s national petroleum company, PETRONAS, while the other is occupied by established international companies and their associates. At the base of the towers, travellers can find a world-class philharmonic hall, Suria KLCC shopping centre, an aquarium, and integrated transport facilities. Adjacent to these tallest twin towers in the world are the well-manicured KLCC park and accessible As-Syakirin Mosque. “This is the place where tourists can be entertained, whet their appetites, or just relax or enjoy the serene surroundings amidst a bustling city,” she describes. A stone’s throw away from the PETRONAS Twin Towers is Bukit Bintang, which has a wide array of international Halal buffet and a myriad of cuisines, which should intrigue Muslim tourists because the area is replete with various Halal-certified Muslim-friendly restaurants that serve delicious international fare at affordable prices. Bukit Bintang retails international brands and local designers’ goods too. Bargaining and haggling for cheaper prices might be possible, except at shops where prices are fixed. Late night shoppers might want to try the famous teh tarik while sitting down and mingling with the locals for a glimpse of Malaysian night life along Jalan Alor.

Petronas Twin Tower during the night and during the day. Picture by Deanna Chin

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After exploring Kuala Lumpur, Deanna brings her Muslim guests to Malaysia’s seat of administration, Putrajaya, around 30 kilometres away. Putrajaya – a manifestation of Malaysia’ ambition as a progressive Muslim-majority nation – is a model city that works in tandem with the natural environment based on two main concepts: a city in the garden, and intelligent city with indigenous identity. Numerous inspiringly designed edifices, scenic bridges, assiduous gardens, and expansive boulevards grace Putrajaya. One landmark that she never fails to introduce to her guests is the pink-hued Putra Mosque, the first ever structure to be completed in Putrajaya overlooking the Putrajaya Lake on the core island.

Bukit Bintang in the evening. Picture by Deanna Chin

Putra Mosque during the day. Picture by Deanna Chin


Down south from Putrajaya is the state of Negeri Sembilan, which Raja Mohd Hafiz fervently promotes to Muslim tourists, particularly Seri Menanti and Kuala Pilah, where foodies can savour mouth-watering Negeri Sembilan dishes like masak lemak lado api ayam atau daging salai (smoked chicken or beef cooked in coconut milk laced with bird’s eye chilli). The crown jewel of the area is the Old Palace of Seri Menanti, the tallest timber palace in Malaysia with over 100 years of history, erected using local timber without the use of nails. Another attraction that Muslim tourists should not miss in Negeri Sembilan is the Army Museum at Port Dickson, possibly one of the best museums in Malaysia, where a group of visitors can hire a local army personnel as an in-house guide. “The museum boasts real weapons, intriguing history and cool replica of a Communist tunnel,” he expresses excitedly. As tourists proceed to the north of Peninsular Malaysia, they will encounter the cosmopolitan state of Penang. “Muslim travellers have been coming to the Malay Archipelago for many centuries. As part of Malaysia Truly Asia, they are bound to discover that Penang has it all,” touts Poh Chin. Among the attractions that Muslim travellers should explore in Penang is The Street of Harmony in George Town, where different religions co-exist with the Masjid Kapitan Keling as the area’s most prominent landmark, reflecting the Muslims’ high level of tolerance and understanding towards others and how harmony is maintained for all. The legendary Nasi Kandar (northern Malaysian rice-based dish popularised by Tamil Muslims) also originated from this street.

Sarawak Cultural Village celebrates local ethnic groups through longhouse replicas, activities & cultural performances

Poh Chin recommends Penang Hill and Habitat as well. Penang Hill’s relatively cooler temperature up at the station 800 metres above sea level is a welcome respite from the humid George Town. The ride along the one-mile-long funicular rail line (longest and steepest in Asia) never fails to impress every visitor. The main draw is the hills’ pristine surroundings and the panoramic view of Penang from above. At the summit, there is a small mosque, including delicious halal food spread, interspersed with the occasional delightful presence of squirrels and monkeys. Conversely, the northern coast of Batu Ferringhi and naturethemed parks like Entopia, Tropical Spice Garden, Tropical Fruit Farm, The Escape, and Penang National Park feature unrivalled sea and tropical jungle immersion experience in a short span of time and distance.

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The Army Museum Port Dickson celebrates Malaysia’s military achievements throughout history. Picture by Army Museum Port Dickson

The funicular railway that brings travellers up to Penang Hill, the oldest British hill station in Southeast Asia.

Ab Razak strongly feels Sabah and Sarawak need to be more exposed to the global Muslim travellers so that they can obtain a more comprehensive picture about Malaysia.It is a way to equitably disperse tourists throughout the country, giving the Muslim tourists more choices on where to go and what to visit within Malaysia, especially among those who have already explored the Klang Valley and Penang. Places like Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, including to some extent Bario, can be offered to the Muslim tourists to further enrich their experience in Malaysia. To him, Kuching is excellent for the uninitiated Muslim tourists to start exploring Malaysian Borneo. Attractions like the Sarawak Museum, Sarawak Cultural Village, Sarawak River cruise, the Old State Mosque, Jong’s Crocodile Farm, Semenggoh to witness orangutan and many forms of indigenous wildlife, Bako National Park, and mangrove cruise, including dining at popular seafood joints, are just some of delights that await Muslim travellers to Kuching.


Let us transfrom your room into a tropical paradise. Let us turn a weekend getaway into a honeymoon you never thought you’d have Let us create a memory so indelible, you’ll savor it long after you’ve left.

For reservations, visit www.ritzcarlton.com/langkawi or call us at +604 952 4888 The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi Jalan Pantai Kok, Teluk Nibong Langkawi, Kedah, 07000, Malaysia.


Destinations

#LepakPerakLah 044

As a state that is filled with remarkable heritage, historical architecture, diverse culture and unique gastronomic offerings, Perak deserves to be put on a pedestal. Also dubbed as the Land of Grace, Perak is full of character due to the influences it has been receiving over the ages. Once famous for its glittering tin ore history, Perak of today makes for a wonderful road tripping destination because there is bound to be something interesting to see and eat along the way. So, to help you plan your trip around Perak, we’ve compiled the best of the best attractions found in each district. So, go ahead and #LepakPerakLah once it is possible for you to travel!

Visit https://www.tourismperakmalaysia.com/ for further information


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Sungai Kooi Waterfall at Royal Belum


BAGAN DATUK DISTRICT Sunflower Garden, Bagan Datuk, Perak Find yourself magically transported to a dreamy realm when standing amidst tall sunflowers at the Sunflower Garden, arguably one of the best highlights to be found in the district of Bagan Datuk in Perak! Be sure to take in the mesmerising view of this garden filled by more than 2,000 giant sunflowers, making it an ideal location for taking wedding pictures for newlyweds besides Instagramworthy selfies. The garden opens every day from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with entrance fees ranging between MYR5 to MYR13 according to age. HILIR PERAK DISTRICT

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Leaning Tower, Teluk Intan, Perak Recognised as a national heritage, the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan is no stranger to many. This pagoda-styled structure was completed in 1885 by a contractor named Leong Choon Chong, in which its original purpose was to serve as a water reservoir during dry season and in the event of fire. And since the tower was built on a soft ground, the weight of the water tank eventually make it lean slightly towards the southwest direction. From the outside, the tower looks like an eightstorey structure, though it actually comprises only three storeys. This iconic structure also features a clock designed by JW Benson of Ludgate Hill in London, which still chimes to this day. HULU PERAK DISTRICT Lenggong Archaeological Museum, Lenggong, Perak www.mdlg.gov.my/ms/pelawat/ destinasi-menarik/muzium-arkeologilenggong This is a museum worth visiting for its vast collection of artefacts, including the famous Perak Man skeleton that is reputed to be around 11,000 years old,

stone tools used by ancient man and drawings from the Paleolithic period. Lenggong Valley is one of Peninsular Malaysia’s most valuable archaeological sites and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Royal Belum Park, Gerik, Perak www.royalbelum.my/eng The 300,000-hectare Royal Belum State Park is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, even older than Amazon. A short hike in the rainforest brings you to the breathtaking and refreshing Sungai Rouk Waterfall, which is home to thousands of freshwater fishes. If you are lucky, you could even see a Rafflesia in full bloom. Besides flora and fauna, some parts of Royal Belum Park have been reserved for an aboriginal tribe called the Jahai. There are three villages in the forest and Kampung Aman Damai is the most well-known, touted as a great example of living heritage. Stroll through the village and mingle with the aboriginal people to understand how they live with bare necessities. KAMPAR DISTRICT Kampar River, Kampar, Perak nomadadventure.com White water rafting along Sungai (River) Kampar is a popular, funfilled activity for the physically fit and those who crave for technical yet safe adventure. The river has 22 different rapids ranging from Grade 2 to Grade 3, ideal for beginners up to intermediate. While rafting, travellers get to experience the thrill of tackling exciting rapids and floating down the river through lush rainforest and old tin mining sites. Sahom Valley Agro & Eco Resort, Kampar, Perak www.facebook.com/sahomvalleyresort Have you ever experienced living in a bamboo house? If the answer is no, do not miss out the chance to overnight at Sahom Valley as the houses are


built using bamboo and located in a palm oil plantation. In the daytime, travellers can cycle around Sahom Valley, frolic around Honey Bamboo field, swim in the river across your bamboo accommodation or ride on an all-terrain vehicle. After a meaningful day, enjoy the evening by watching the cultural performance by Perak’s aboriginal tribe and join in the singing and dancing over a hearty dinner. This resort is ideal for those seeking peace and relaxation. Gaharu Tea Valley, Gopeng, Perak www.facebook.com/GaharuTeaValley As travellers enter this valley, they will be amazed by its formidable-looking fortress that seems to mimic the Great Wall of China. Located four kilometres from Gopeng, Gaharu Tea Valley spans 300 acres and cultivates 200,000 gaharu (agarwood) trees at the foothills of the Titiwangsa Range. Travellers can make a quick stop at Hugging Hills where the management provides a garden with several tall gaharu trees for visitors to hug them – it is believed that the trees need to be hugged so that it could grow healthily. Before leaving, travellers can buy gaharu-based products, among them gaharu ice-cream and gaharu noodles. No fees are charged to enter the valley; however, the fee of RM10 per adult or RM5 per child is imposed if travellers plan to tour around the valley. Gua Tempurung, Gopeng, Perak www.gtoc.asia This is one of the longest limestone cave tunnels in Peninsular Malaysia that extends as far as two kilometres. Although it is not as big as the Niah and Mulu Caves in Sarawak, novice cavers will be glad to know that cave exploration here is made relatively easy by accessible steel and concrete staircases constructed along the trail. Viewing platforms and railings are added as additional safety measures and spotlights are strategically

placed to illuminate the cave’s most attractive features. Interested cavers can experience Gua Tempurung Outdoor Camp, an establishment that aims to please adrenaline junkies with adventurous outdoor activities such as caving, white-water rafting, tubing and waterfall abseiling. Gua Kandu, Gopeng, Perak nomadadventure.com This cave was once used by the Japanese during the Second World War before it was taken over by Communist guerrillas as their secret base during the Emergency period. Travellers are required to hike more than usual as they go through a steep climb to get to the cave entrance. The ceiling of the cave is about 35 feet (11 metres) high from the floor. As travellers enter and shine their lights on the tunnels, they will be able to witness various stones, stalagmites, weird wall textures and geological formations. Travellers will get their adrenaline rush at the end of their cave exploration when they zipline out of the cave to a platform on the hillside below, then continue scaling down via ferrata.

Clockwise from Previous Page, Top: Sunflower Garden, Bagan Datuk; Royal Belum Park, Gerik; Kayaking on Temenggor Lake in Royal Belum; Leaning Tower, Teluk Intan.

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KERIAN DISTRICT Bukit Merah Laketown Resort, Semanggol, Perak www.bukitmerahresort.com.my Located a three-hour drive away from Kuala Lumpur, Bukit Merah Laketown is a good option for a quick getaway. Famous for its over 11-acre waterpark, the waterpark offers 14 rides for adults and children. For those of you who want to get closer to the flora and fauna, on the other hand, could visit its eco-park where visitors can view and interact with a variety of animals including primates, otters and reptiles, all roam freely within well-maintained enclosures specially designed to suit their natural habitat. Another attraction in Bukit Merah Laketown Resort is the Orang Utan Island, which is reachable by boat and takes about 10 minutes to get there. KINTA DISTRICT Ipoh Railway Station, Ipoh, Perak Some call it as the ‘Taj Mahal of Ipoh’, thanks to its gorgeous Neo-Moorish/ Indo-Saracenic architecture designed by the architect Arthur Benison Hubback, whose stint in India heavily inspired his works. In fact, many of his other works shared similar influence, including the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station (completed 1910), the Jamek Mosque (completed 1909) and the old KL city hall building (completed 1904). Take a lazy stroll around the building, and you’ll see how easy it is to be lost in time because most of the parts are still intact; perhaps, this was also the reason why it was chosen to be the set for Jodie Foster’s Anna and the King. Today, the station is still in operation, served by the KTM Electric Train Services (ETS). Kampung Kacang Puteh, Ipoh, Perak Many of the community members in Kampung Kacang Puteh today are descendants of the first-generation

migrants from Tamil Nadu. They were brought to what was then Malaya by the British to clear land. Those who were entrepreneurial and possessed the skill in making Indian snacks started small businesses, particularly selling light bites known as ‘kacang puteh’ or steamed lentils (‘kacang kuda’) for side income. Their businesses eventually flourished, and more and more families joined the bandwagon by offering different varieties of snacks like murukku, fried nuts and potato chips, expanding the industry into what we see today. It is believed that over 100 types of Indian snacks are now produced and sold at this village. Yasmin at Kong Heng, Ipoh, Perak www.facebook.com/yasminatkongheng This gallery celebrates the life and works of the late Yasmin Ahmad, a film-maker well known for her truly Malaysian spirit. This gallery opens on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Funtasy House and Trick Art, Ipoh, Perak funtasyhouse.com This is a family-oriented threedimensional trick art gallery that brings excitement among the young and the inner child among the old. It consists of 26 murals and two upsidedown rooms where visitors need to pose in specific way or angle to make the shot realistic, such as posing like they are flying on a witch’s broom similar to Harry Potter. Sunway Lost World of Tambun, Tambun, Perak sunwaylostworldoftambun.com This is the perfect place to get lost (in a good way) with your family because Lost World of Tambun is an all-inone adventure park that contains a water park, an amusement park, a petting zoo, tiger valley, and even hot springs and spa. After the sun sets,

the place is transformed into a magical Night Park with a flaming percussion show that leave visitors in awe! Tambun Pomelo Farm, Tambun, Perak Tambun is famous for its pomelos. Pomelo is well-known for its sweet and refreshing taste, besides being used as traditional medicine. There are several pomelo farms in Tambun that not only sold pomelos locally but also exported internationally. Pomelo in Tambun is not grown seasonally, hence production is consistent throughout the year due to Tambun’s hilly soil that is rich with minerals. One of the largest pomelo cultivators, Mr. Chin, even exports his pomelo to Hong Kong, Singapore, United States of America and Australia, among others. At Mr. Chin’s farm, visitors are welcomed to savour the fresh pomelo and other fruits such as rambutan, passion fruit, jackfruit, star fruit, guava, sapodilla and many more. Tour groups are advised to call the farm at 05-5497309 before visiting. Kellie’s Castle, Batu Gajah, Perak Possibly one of the most famous landmarks of the state, Kellie’s Castle keeps drawing visitors with its impressive yet unfinished architecture. Its mysterious aura invites paranormal seekers; however, come daytime, this spectacular building makes a beautiful subject for architectural photography. The castle was built by William Kellie-Smith, a Scottish civil engineer and rubber plantation owner, for his beloved wife, Agnes, but sadly was never completed due to his untimely death. The wife then decided to sell it before she and her children returned to Scotland.

Previous Page, Clockwise from Top Left: Bukit Merah Laketown Resort, Semanggol; Funtasy House and Trick Art, Ipoh; Kellie’s Castle (Image by Iszarizal Ismail from Pixabay); Tambun Pomelo Farm, Tambun.

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KUALA KANGSAR DISTRICT

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Ubudiah Royal Mosque, Kuala Kangsar, Perak Gleaming gloriously under the sun against contrasting blue sky, this royal mosque is dubbed as one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia. Designed by Arthur Benison Hubback, the building features striking gilded golden domes, four minarets and 16 turrets. However, not many knew that the original version of the mosque was slightly simpler; the domes were initially made of concrete before they were rebuilt using aluminium in the 1970s. The mosque was commissioned by Sultan Idris Murshidul Adzam Shah, the 28th Sultan of Perak (1887 – 1916), as part of His Royal Highness’s expression of gratitude to The Almighty after recovering from an illness. Royal Museum of Perak, Kuala Kangsar, Perak muzium.perak.gov.my/index.php/en/ museums/royal-museum-kuala-kangsar Also aptly known as Istana Kenangan, the palace had been the official residence of the royal family between 1931 and 1933. It was built in 1926 by the Malay carpenter Enci Sepian for Sultan Iskandar Shah. However, after Istana Iskandariah was completed, the royal family moved to the new palace and Istana Kenangan was then used to hold royal celebrations and host palace guests. Today, this quaint palace has been turned into the Royal Museum of Perak, which opens daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (the museum closes at 12:45 p.m. on Thursdays) except Friday.

Galeri Sultan Azlan Shah, Kuala Kangsar, Perak muzium.perak.gov.my/index.php/ muzium/galeri-sultan-azlan-shah If you are a history buff, be prepared to be awed by this iconic attraction in Kuala Kangsar. Strategically located at the heart of this serene Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar, Galeri Sultan Azlan Shah showcases enthralling anecdotes of the late Sultan Azlan Shah (19282014). The gallery provides insights into what made Sultan Azlan Shah the man he was, from his personal background to his vast personal collections, honorary awards, jewellery and medals. Hajah Azizah Gold Thread (Tekat Emas), Kuala Kangsar, Perak The art of gold thread embroidery is an elegant traditional handicraft that can be traced back to the 15th century. Hajah Azizah Mohd Yusof, who received recognition as the National Master Craftsman for Gold Thread Embroidery in 2018, has taken the initiative to promote the art of gold thread embroidery by organising and facilitating gold thread embroidery workshops, besides exhibiting the products near her house in Kampung Padang Changkat, Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar. For more info, contact +6 012 513 6400. Ihsaniah Iskandariah Mosque, Padang Rengas, Perak One day when Sultan Iskandar Shah went out for a picnic at Lata Bubu near Padang Rengas, His Highness noticed that his subjects were praying in a rundown madrasah (Islamic

religious school). As he was a pious man himself, Sultan Iskandar Shah then ordered a better mosque to be built in the area, hence the creation of Ihsaniah Iskandariah Mosque, which was named after him. The building –considered unique due to its exquisite plaited kelarai (woven strip bamboo) and carvings on the building’s façade – was crafted by Chinese artisans and now becomes a popular Instagram-worthy attraction. Panjut Festival, Padang Rengas, Considered as a unique tradition in Padang Rengas, the panjut (oil lamp) festival, which has been around for decades, takes place in the final week of every Ramadhan (Muslim fasting month). This festival involves lights that can be witnessed when villagers dazzlingly illuminate their villages by hanging the oil lamps from huge elaborate structures. However, in the mid80s, the festival was temporarily banned due to a claim that it made people neglect their taraweeh (special prayers held nightly during the entire Ramadhan). The festival was revived in 2014 by Padang Rengas Parliamentary Constituency Sports and Community Recreation Club in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism & Culture Malaysia and Padang Rengas Member of Parliament Service Centre to promote unity and creativity at the grassroots level.


Ubudiah Royal Mosque, Kuala Kangsar

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Perak Royal Museum (Credit to Perak State Museum Board)


LARUT, MATANG & SELAMA DISTRICT Taiping Lake Gardens, Taiping, Perak There’s no place that represents Taiping better than its Lake Gardens; it is so serene and peaceful that it literally personifies the town’s name, which means ‘everlasting peace’ in Hokkien. The lake was formerly an abandoned tin mine, but now flourishes as a lush green sanctuary consisting of a calm, sprawling lake and ancient rain trees. Today, travellers can see locals, including those with families, having picnic and enjoy the area’s pleasant atmosphere while jogging.

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Zoo Taiping & Night Safari, Taiping, Perak m.facebook.com/zootaipingnightsafari Get close with over a thousand animals of different species including mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. These residents are kept in enclosures designed to resemble their natural habitats with streams, lakes and abundance of flora. At night, the zoo offers a night safari ride that gives visitors a chance to see nocturnal animals in action! Bukit Larut, Taiping, Perak Maxwell Hill, now renamed as Bukit Larut, receives the most rainfall in the country. It possesses natural landscape that surrounds the colonial buildings that used to be vacation bungalows for British officers. The majestic view from the top of the hill is something that no one wants to miss when they come to Taiping. There are many indigenous plants that grow wildly here such as begonia and jungle orchid, with interesting wildlife to match such as monkeys, reptiles and even tigers. At the foot of Bukit Larut, visitors will be able to find the Biodiversity Centre, supervised by the National Landscape Department and functions as an educational centre for conserving and preserving the balance of Bukit Larut’s natural surroundings.

Taiping Lake Gardens, Taiping

Bukit Larut, Taiping


Matang Mangrove Eco-Educational Forest Centre, Kuala Sepetang, Perak www.kualasepetang.com The mangrove forest here – managed by Perak State Forestry Department – is one of the best managed mangroves in the world and the Matang Mangrove Eco-Educational Forest Centre provides recreational facilities, eco-tourism opportunities and help to increase public awareness towards the importance of managing our forest. While strolling along the boardwalk through the mangrove forest, visitors will be immersed in the mangrove ecosystem, led by a knowledgeable tour guide.

Matang Mangrove Eco-Educational Forest Centre, Kuala Sepetang

Kampung Dew Fireflies Tour, Kuala Sepetang, Perak www.kualasepetang.com If fireflies always fascinate you, then make your way to Kampung Dew and experience watching tonnes of ‘Christmas lights’ along the river! Countless number of fireflies light up every tree along the river and flicker simultaneously, turning the whole environment magical. Charcoal Factory, Kuala Sepetang, Perak The charcoal factory owned by Khay Hor Holdings Sdn. Bhd. is a unique tourist attraction. Established in 1930, the factory is still running until now, producing what they know best in the traditional way: charcoal from the mangrove forest. This factory with its igloo-like kilns has been attracting travellers when they visit Matang Mangrove Forest because this is the best place to learn about the whole process of traditional charcoal production.

Charcoal Factory, Kuala Sepetang

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MANJUNG DISTRICT

that line the temple.

Saloma Vineyard & Nursery, Sitiawan, Perak www.salomavineyard.com Who says Malaysia can’t grow grapes? Saloma Vineyard & Nursery proves this crop can grow and be harvested even in Malaysia’s tropical climate. Take part in the amazing experience at the farm by plucking grapes with your own hands and learn the technique on how to cultivate grapes from the vineyard owner. Travellers can also buy grape saplings for RM20 to grow the plant at home.

Hai Seng Hin Satay Factory, Pangkor, Perak haisenghin.net/index.htm When being on an island rich with maritime resources such as Pangkor, travellers naturally buy seafood snacks as souvenirs to bring back home. Established in 1969, Hai Seng Hing Satay Factory is a major seafood trader that stocks up well-loved seafood snacks like crispy cuttlefish satay, barbequed fish, fish satay, and squid and prawn crackers. The factory’s shop also sells frozen fresh and sea water fishes including Indian mackerel, hilsa, Spanish mackerel, dried shrimps, salted fish and salted jellyfish.

Lekir Agriculture Station, Sitiawan, Perak If Perlis is popular for its mango called Harum Manis, Perak takes pride in its own type of mango called Chokonan, which is cultivated in Sitiawan. Lekir Agriculture Station has 80 acres of Chokonan Mango trees, each needs to grow for at least two years and a half before starting to fruit. Besides Chokonan mangoes, the farm also plants rock melons, coconuts and vegetables, among others. This place is suitable for those who want to experience plucking fruits and vegetables directly from the tree with their bare hands. Ping Sien Si Temple, Sitiawan, Perak Ping Sien Si is just one of the few names tagged to this temple; however, it is better known as Tua Pek Kong Temple or Kuan Yin Temple in Kampung Pasir Panjang Laut. The basic structure of this temple was built over a century ago. However, after its major facelift that cost MYR7.5 million, the modest basic structure surrounded by the mangrove forest by the sea has now been transformed into a grand house of worship that is divided into three sections namely Tua Pek Kong, Kuan Yin (the Goddess of Mercy) whom Buddhists can express their gratitude and share their grief, and Hua Ye (the Tiger Spirit). These three deities are amongst the 99 statues

Dutch Fort, Pangkor, Perak Pangkor Island’s history might not be as glorious as Melaka’s, but in 1650, the Dutch arrived in Pangkor and the locals were forced to agree with the construction of the Dutch Fort, which was then converted into a warehouse to keep all of the collected tin ore away from the locals. After some time, the locals rebelled and attacked it. Since then, it was never in use anymore and has now become a tourist attraction on Pangkor Island.

Hai Seng Hin Satay Factory, Pangkor

Masjid Al-Badr Seribu Selawat, Pangkor, Perak Located in Kampung Teluk Gedong, the mosque gets its name from the 1,000 inscriptions of salawat that have been carved on the walls and pillars of the mosque. The design features a unique harmonious blend of local Perakian architecture and Middle Eastern influences. Truly, this is one of the most beautiful mosques we’ve ever laid eyes on in Malaysia! PERAK TENGAH DISTRICT Desa Warisan iGROW, Bota, Perak www.facebook.com/WARISANIGROW Been missing the ‘balik kampung’ feeling? Then head to Kompleks Desa Warisan iGROW, an integrated project that combines agriculture with hospitality and entrepreneurship. Stepping into this 30-acre land brings back the nostalgia of Malaysia 40 to 50 years ago, with its wooden houses built in Malay vernacular, lush tropical vegetation, and fresh air. Guests can wake up to the sounds of roosters crowing in the morning, take in the fresh air and reinvigorate their eyes with the soothing view of the adjacent green vegetable farm.


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COV I D - 1 9 PA N D EM I C : 058

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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Gaya Special Feature

Putrajaya Gears Up to Host

IBBY International Congress 2022 Perbadanan Putrajaya (Putrajaya Corporation) is proud to host the 38th International Board on Books for Young People Congress 2022 (IBBY International Congress 2022 or IBBY 2022 for short), which will be held from the 5th until 8th September 2022 at the Putrajaya Corporation Complex, Precinct 3, Putrajaya, Malaysia. It is an honour for Putrajaya to be chosen as the venue of this prestigious congress, the first venue in Southeast Asia and the fourth in Asia after New Delhi, Tokyo and Macau to ever host the congress, which champions the best of children’s and young people’s literature worldwide. IBBY 2022 marks Putrajaya taking over the hosting of the congress from Moscow, slated from the 10th until 12th of September 2021 (postponed from September 2020). IBBY 2022 will bring the theme “The Power of Stories” to explore narratives that are specially created for young people – whom IBBY defines as those between the ages of 0 and 17 – across countries, cultures and education systems. They will then be discussed and shared together with experts and event attendees from around the world for the purpose of celebrating diversity and building bridges of understanding and tolerance. This biennial event – considered as one of the literary world’s most anticipated – brings together publishers, writers, storytellers, illustrators, educators and book lovers around the world to promote international understanding through children’s books, set high literary and artistic standards, and provide support and training for those in the field. According to the President of the Malaysian Board on Books for Young People (MBBY), Dato’ Ahmad Redza bin Ahmad Khairuddin, Putrajaya is chosen as the venue of the congress due to the close rapport and working relationship established between Perbadanan Putrajaya and IBBY Malaysia since 2014. In 2015, Putrajaya hosted the 2nd IBBY Asia Oceania Regional Conference. Since then, many events have been jointly promoted and held in Putrajaya with a special focus on enhancing the awareness and activism in literature and reading programs for young people. “By holding this congress, our ambition is to bring the best practices and experts in the field of young people’s literature, reading, writing, and illustration. There are also plenty of opportunities for all Malaysians to come and participate, as well as benefit from interacting with influential figures in this field,” adds Dato’ Ahmad Redza. Perbadanan Putrajaya is convinced that the IBBY International Congress 2022 will boost the tourism sector in the city, especially after being seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is expected to propel Malaysian literature internationally while benefitting young people and industry players in Putrajaya and beyond. “Hopefully by September 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic has abated, and travel is

allowed again so that many people can come to Malaysia, especially those who have missed the congress in Moscow and the Bologna Bookfair in 2021. We look forward to welcoming 800 delegates, both from Malaysia and the rest of the world,” beams YBhg Datuk Muhammad Azmi bin Mohd Zain, President of Perbadanan Putrajaya. Kick-starting the preparation for the congress, Perbadanan Putrajaya sets the right tone with an array of activities leading up to the big affair in 2022. Among them are the Children’s Story Book and Picture Book Competition in conjunction with Putrajaya’s silver jubilee celebration; a virtual Putrajaya Storytelling Festival that showcases eight prolific writers and illustrators, including the internationally-acclaimed storyteller Beatriz Montero who delivered the story entitled ‘The Day Box Boy Saved Putrajaya’ authored by the Malaysian illustrator CK Koh; the launch of special publication of a premium illustrated children’s story book in collaboration with MBBY called ‘Magnificent Putrajaya!’ featuring stories with places in Putrajaya as the background by renowned local illustrators and writers; a special MBBY-Palestine Fundraiser to support IBBY’s effort in providing access to libraries with reading materials and computer facility for the children in Gaza; and a virtual Children’s Book Writing, Illustration and Storytelling Workshop, including a Children’s Story Book Competition in partnership with Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka. On the same note, during IBBY 2022, members of the public can admire beautiful murals that spur the imagination at the following locations when exploring Putrajaya: the waterfront in Precinct 4, the Alamanda Steps in Precinct 1, and the walkway and tunnel in Precinct 8. IBBY Congress 2022 is fully supported by Perbadanan Putrajaya, Selangor University, Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC), Malaysia Covention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCeb), Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and Majlis Buku Kebangsaan Malaysia. For more information on IBBY International Congress 2022, please visit www.ibbycongress2022.org, www.ibby.org or www.mbby.org.

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Highlights of the upcoming IBBY International Congress 2022: 1. The Hans Christian Andersen Award Presentation The Hans Christian Andersen Award is the highest international distinction given to the creators of books for young people. Given every other year by IBBY, the Hans Christian Andersen Awards recognise lifelong achievement and are given to an author and an illustrator whose complete works have made an important and lasting contribution to literature for young people. Sixty-two candidates from 33 countries have been nominated for the 2022 Hans Christian Andersen Award. 062

2. The IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award Presentation The IBBY-Asahi Reading Promotion Award is bestowed biennially to a group or institution whose outstanding work bring lasting contribution to promote reading among young people. The Award was established in 1986 and is sponsored by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. Nominations are submitted by the National Sections of IBBY and may include reading promotion projects from any part of the world. The prize of USD10,000 and a diploma are presented to the winning project at the biennial IBBY Congress. 3. The IBBY-iRead Reading Promoter Award Presentation The IBBY-iRead Outstanding Reading Promoter Award has been established by the Shenzhen iRead Foundation and IBBY to spur real commitment towards promoting reading among young people and inspire others around the globe to do the same. The award aims at encouraging investments by individuals, organisations and governments to promote young people’s reading and stimulate

educational innovation, providing greater access to books and enhancing their reading profile. 4. The IBBY Honour List Presentation The IBBY Honour List is a biennial selection of outstanding, recently published books, honouring writers, illustrators and translators from IBBY member countries. The titles are selected by the National Sections, which nominate one book for each of the three categories. To be part of the Honour List, the nominated titles should represent the best in young people’s literature from the member countries and suitable for publication throughout the world. 5. The Plenary Session Two speakers from Malaysia and three international speakers will be invited to address the issues revolving young people’s literature. 6. The Poster Presentation Selected posters will be on display for an hour during the congress. 7. The Papers Presentation Participants get to share various perspectives on influential works of youth literature and discuss them according to subthemes, for instance ‘Cognitive Power In Young People’s Development’, ‘Stories for Healing for Young People’, ‘Power of Visual and Aural Presentation in Young People’s Stories’, ‘Bridging Divides in Young People’s Literature’, ‘Identity and Values in Young People’s Literature’ and ‘Empathy and Memory in Stories and Storytelling for Young People.’


Q & A with Dato’ Ahmad Redza bin Ahmad Khairuddin, President of Malaysian Board on Books for Young People How much progress has IBBY been making over the years in bringing books and young people together? IBBY has been active since 1953, making it almost 70 years of age. Much progress has been made in bringing books and young people together. With 80 countries in IBBY, the width and depth of IBBY’s work is proven. Each national section is actively promoting activities in reading and development of young people’s literature in the context of each country’s needs and practices, ably supported by IBBY International through collaborations and support from other more established national sections. Regional conferences are held every two years preceding the IBBY International Congress, which is held biennially as well. Authors and illustrators are recognised by the Hans Christian Andersen Awards, which is among the most prestigious award in the world, given in the field of literature for young people. In addition, we have the IBBY Asahi Reading Promotion Award and the IBBY IRead Reading Promoter Award to recognise reading activities and promoters of reading. In many areas of conflict and disasters, IBBY is present to support and provide relief to young people, including women and adults, through books and literature. IBBY has often been entrusted with funds by donors to carry out activities on reading, development of reading culture, publications of books in areas of need. IBBY’s role in the world for therapy and support for young people is widely recognised and accepted without discrimination of race, colour nor religion.

What are the issues that will be addressed during the congress? How can those issues be applied to the Malaysian context? Could you kindly share with us some examples of the works and initiatives that IBBY plans to highlight during the congress? The IBBY 2022 in Putrajaya is set to bring together a whole diverse group of experts from various parts of the world comprising laureates, authors, illustrators, practitioners, librarians, academicians and caregivers to share their knowledge and experiences in the field of reading, writing, illustrating, storytelling and working with young people in crisis such as war and natural disasters. We will be showcasing works of award-winning authors and illustrators from the Hans Christian Anderson Awards, Nami Concours, winners of the Asahi and IRead awards. There will be opportunities to meet the winners themselves as they will be invited to attend and receive their respective awards in Putrajaya. On top of keynote, plenary and panel sessions, pre- and post-congress workshops, sessions to meet authors and award winners, and masterclass workshops conducted by experts are in the offing. Malaysian leading artists, authors, editors, publishers, academicians, teachers, and caregivers will also be given equal opportunities to present or meet the experts. Subject to the availability of sponsorships, our delegates might stay longer in Malaysia to visit or conduct special sessions to share their expertise.

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Q & A with YBhg Datuk Muhammad Azmi bin Mohd Zain, President of Perbadanan Putrajaya

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Which sites in Putrajaya are identified as venues for IBBY 2022? The Perbadanan Putrajaya Complex is the main venue for the congress with all our facilities being booked to host this event. We aspire to present an aura of fun and relaxation for everyone, either from local or overseas, to enjoy our facilities, beautiful landscape and weather for this congress. We understand from MBBY that IBBY Congress is meant to be organised without too much formality and protocol, allowing all delegates to mingle and enjoy networking and making friends. We intend to provide such an atmosphere for them to remember Putrajaya as the best congress ever where the delegates can make use of the green spaces surrounded by water features and beautiful architecture as the backdrop. Delegates are encouraged to take in the landscape and buildings at the congress site, take photos and post Instagram moments. Are the facilities sufficient to accommodate them? Does Putrajaya need to build additional infrastructure for IBBY 2022? Our current facilities are adequate to accommodate such numbers and we are not building any new buildings for this. If needed, we can collaborate with other agencies to provide more space within the surroundings of the Complex. For accommodation, we have many hotels now around Putrajaya and Cyberjaya. Transport is good and we will ensure that delegates are well equipped with information to ensure their timely transportation and safety. What kind of benefits are expected to be gained by Putrajaya through the hosting of IBBY 2022? In what way could the event elevate Putrajaya’s position as a destination for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE)? Being the administrative capital of Malaysia, Putrajaya’s architecture and facilities enable visitors to make the most of their visit. We have great facilities for meetings and conventions, accommodation and food, together with strategically located transport networks that

easily connect delegates to KLIA and Kuala Lumpur. Coupled with our renowned hospitality, visitors are bound to enjoy Putrajaya. Our delegates from all over the world will see that Putrajaya is not only Malaysia’s federal administrative capital, but also a vibrant cultural hub offering the best for young people to indulge in literature, culture and fantasy.


There are different facets of Putrajaya to be explored such as the flora and fauna, lake and wetlands, the amazing urban birding experience, extreme sports and more. Putrajaya is bicycle-friendly and its walking trails are safe, much to the delegates’ and their families’ enjoyment. The publicity received from the congress and word-of-mouth should attract more visitors to make Putrajaya as one of their chosen holiday destinations – and organisations as their MICE destination – since the city is capable in hosting large scale international MICE and continues to bid for world class events. Hosting of IBBY 2022 is beneficial to the Putrajaya community and related businesses in Malaysia. The link and relationship forged with member countries and delegates should continue. I believe IBBY members would be happy to elevate young people’s literature in Putrajaya. Being a young city, we value creativity and innovation, thus literature should not be confined to libraries and schools but promoted in various other dimensions throughout the city. We intend to attract more young people to become writers and illustrators. For a start, with the help of our partner MBBY, we have selected the potential candidates in 2021 and the classes are still ongoing.

Beyond IBBY 2022, Putrajaya is confident that the writers, illustrators, academicians, publishers and related businesses in Malaysia stand to immensely gain from the congress, at the same time widening their international contacts. What are Putrajaya Corporation’s plans to help make IBBY Congress 2022 memorable and ensure that the visitors to the event return to Putrajaya in the future? Perbadanan Putrajaya has embarked on the promotion plans for Congress via “Road to IBBY Congress 2022” plans. Many activities had been planned and have been implemented. Many more will be held as we get nearer to the actual congress. For the delegates, we plan to provide the best experience through our hospitality encompassing transportation, hotels, food and facilities. We are planning various excursion programmes, including pre- and post-congress activities, for delegates and accompanying persons to other places bordering Putrajaya as well. We want to showcase our culture and beauty of our multicultural society and enable direct contacts where possible. Long- and medium-term relationships are something we seek to establish among the delegates, their countries and even the NGOs so that in the future we will see them returning to Putrajaya.

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Pulau Rawa

MERSING

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UNEARTH THE JEWEL OF THE SOUTH


PulauPONTIAN Kukup

UNEARTH THE JEWEL OF THE SOUTH


Gaya Special Feature

Tourism Selangor Celebrated its 20 Years of Excellence Tourism Selangor recently celebrated its 20th Anniversary virtually during “Tourism Selangor’s LiveTalk – Episode 2” held on 14 July on its official Facebook Page with General Manager of Tourism Selangor Mr. Azrul Shah Mohamad and Director of Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture – Selangor Division Mr. Syed Mohd Fariz bin Syed Mansor Al Idrus gracing the talk.

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Dato’ Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Selangor Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Amirudin bin Shari.

This year’s Anniversary celebration highlighted Tourism Selangor’s roles, responsibilities and accomplishments over the years. During the LiveTalk session, an exclusive clip was shared with the audience featuring the Dato’ Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Selangor Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Amirudin bin Shari. “Throughout these two decades, Tourism Selangor’s initiatives in constantly discovering new tourism places, as well as promoting interesting tourism attractions with qualities such as cultural diversity has brought success to the State. In 2019, Selangor managed to attract a staggering 30 million tourists which certainly imposed a positive impact on the State’s economy, particularly its tourism industry. “Covid-19 has severely-impacted the industry. However, in bracing for the impact, Selangor’s several comprehensive Economic Plans such as Kita Selangor Package 1.0 and Kita Selangor Package 2.0 include financial aid allocation by Selangor State Government for its tourism industry. In conjunction with Tourism Selangor’s 20th Anniversary, let us all stay resilient in overcoming obstacles and challenges towards becoming a preferred and premier tourism destination, not only domestically, but also internationally. Happy 20th Anniversary, Tourism Selangor,” stated Y.A.B. Dato’ Seri Amirudin bin Shari in the video.


decades, not forgetting the members of media who always keep up with our promotional initiatives, government and private agencies that supported Tourism Selangor’s events and programmes over the years, and the members of the general public who always make Selangor their first choice,” Mr. Azrul Shah added.

Selangor State’s Executive Council Member for Tourism and Environment The Honourable Mr. Hee Loy Sian

General Manager of Tourism Selangor Mr. Azrul Shah Mohamad

“For two decades, Tourism Selangor has become the right-hand man of Selangor State Government in fostering the State’s tourism. I hope Tourism Selangor will become the backbone of tourism industry players in Selangor and will place thoughtful attention on their needs and concerns from time to time,” Selangor State’s Executive Council Member for Tourism and Environment The Honourable Mr. Hee Loy Sian mentioned in a statement.

Currently leading Tourism Selangor since the 1st of January 2020, General Manager of Tourism Selangor Mr. Azrul Shah Mohamad believes it was not easy to reach this benchmark because 20 years is not a short period of time.

First registered as a private company called PNSB Realty Sdn. Bhd. on 24 February 1994 under the Companies Act 1965, the name was changed into Tourism Selangor Sdn. Bhd. (Tourism Selangor) on 14 July 2001. The Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of Selangor at that time launched Tourism Selangor in October of that same year. Tourism Selangor was initially a subsidiary of Permodalan Nasional Selangor Berhad (PNSB) until 2008 when the ownership was transferred to Menteri Besar Selangor Incorporated (MBI) to date.

“Certainly, those associated with Tourism Selangor, in the past and present, have overcome various challenges and obstacles and collected bittersweet memories along the way. On that note, I am taking this opportunity to express my appreciation to everyone who have supported Tourism Selangor in the past two

Emphasising on integrity and dedication to continue its glorious track record for the past two decades into the future, Tourism Selangor has outlined various promotional initiatives, especially its Domestic Tourism Campaign; Pusing Selangor Dulu, which is aimed at rebuilding the industry post-Covid-19 pandemic. Among the initiatives include the execution of physical and virtual tourism events and programmes in accordance with the current SOPs; strengthening the digital platform geared towards “Tourism 4.0” or tourism digitalisation; frequent round-table discussions with government, private agencies and tourism industry players; and intensifying advertising campaigns across all platforms, mass media, online, electronic, and targeted digital advertising on main websites and web browsers.

Paragliding Hulu Selangor

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Tourism Selangor Corporate Song was also launched during the LiveTalk session, brought to life by Tourism Selangor’s own in-house talents: Corporate Communications Manager Mr. Ahmad Nazri Tashriq bin Rahmat as the writer and Corporate Communications Executive Siti Norfadila binti Ab Wahab as the singer. “The timing in releasing this song is perfect, marking 20 glorious years of Tourism Selangor. The song is catchy, the beat is contemporary, and the lyrics are meaningful. This is the anthem that all of us at Tourism Selangor will sing with pride. We are united by our roles and responsibilities at Tourism Selangor, and through this song, we convey our love and utmost commitment to the company,” claimed Mr. Ahmad Nazri Tashriq.

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“I am proud to be able to contribute to the company through my talent. During the song recording, I felt a sudden urge of enthusiasm running through my veins, and I do hope, the rest of us at Tourism Selangor will feel the same way when singing the anthem; proud, determined and empowered. ‘We are Tourism Selangor’,” Siti Norfadila said.

Corporate Communications Manager Mr. Ahmad Nazri Tashriq bin Rahmat

Corporate Communications Executive Siti Norfadila binti Ab Wahab

Sungai Congkak

SKY Mirror


Tourism Selangor’s Long standing Staff - Going Down Memor y Lane

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Stakeholders & Government Affairs Assistant Manager; Mr. Zaimi Shari

Product and Package Development Executive; Mr. Zolkafli bin Abdul

Product and Package Development Executive Mr. Zolkafli bin Abdul has been with Tourism Selangor for 20 years. “I am grateful that I was once given the opportunity to work as a supervisor at Chongkak Park & Resort, which is under the management of Tourism Selangor. It gave me the experience of managing a large area that certainly required a thorough supervision,” Mr. Zolkafli reminisced. On the same note, Tourism Selangor’s Department of Stakeholders & Government Affairs Assistant Manager Mr. Zaimi Shari

Corporate Communications Executive Mrs. Rohaida binti Salamat

Promotions Manager Mrs. Khuzaimah binti Jamaluddin

congratulates the organisation for its 20th Anniversary. “I thank our current General Manager, as well as the former General Manager and staff who have provided me guidance throughout the years. Congratulations, Tourism Selangor for the 20 years’ milestone,” he iterated. Meanwhile, Promotions Manager Mrs. Khuzaimah binti Jamaluddin, who has been with Tourism Selangor for almost 13 years, had this to say: “In conjunction with Tourism Selangor’s 20th Anniversary, I personally would like to say; I love Tourism Selangor. Tourism Selangor will always be in my heart and I hope it will continue to become a

well-established organisation, which is responsible for boosting tourism in the State of Selangor.” In addition, Corporate Communications Executive Mrs. Rohaida binti Salamat, with her 19-year experience at Tourism Selangor, cherishes many unforgettable memories. “I once had the opportunity to work with Selangor’s then Tourism EXCO, together with a group of Selangor’s entrepreneurs, to Yiwu City, China in 2011, which was a great learning experience,” she recounted.


Q&A with Tourism Selangor 1) When did the organisation start going global (participating in international tourism fairs)? Which fairs does the organisation focus strongly on? Which markets are Selangor’s targeting? Since its early establishment, Tourism Selangor has been emphasising on strategies to penetrate the international travel market, besides strengthening its domestic tourism, by consulting Tourism Malaysia in tapping suitable markets. Tourism Selangor began by focussing on the Southeast Asian market like Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam, hence Tourism Selangor’s participated in ASEAN Tourism Forum, The International Tourism Exhibition (ITE) in Ho Chi Minh City, and more. To date, Tourism Selangor has embarked upon various international missions in many parts of the world either under the auspices of Tourism Malaysia or individual / sole participation. In many instances, Tourism Selangor constructed its own Pavilion and exhibition space, and the mission was joined by selected Selangor industry players. Among the renowned World Trade Fairs / Shows / Exhibitions that Tourism Selangor participated were Internationale Tourismus Börse (ITB) Berlin, World Travel Market (WTM) London, Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai, and Tourism Expo Japan organised by Japan Association of Travel Agents, among others.

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@realvisionshotz

As of now, in terms of international tourists, Tourism Selangor mainly focusses on three markets: ASEAN, West Asia (Middle East), and Europe. At the same time, the two other markets that Tourism Selangor is exploring are Latin America and Oceania.

Sepang Gold Coast

Tanjung Karang

2) What are the organisation’s proudest achievements since it first started? Over the last three years, Tourism Selangor has garnered the following awards: o Destination of The Year 2018 at Malaysia Tourism Council Gold Awards 2018 o World’s Best Heritage Destination 2018 at International Travel Awards 2018 o Best Online Travel Guide 2019 at South East Asia Business Awards 2019 o Tourism Event of the Year 2019 & Best Golf and Leisure Destination at Malaysia Tourism Council Gold Awards 2019 In addition, Tourism Selangor’s latest Domestic Tourism Promotional Campaign, Pusing Selangor Dulu, has been receiving overwhelming response from the masses. The campaign’s official promotional video featuring Tourism Selangor Ambassador Che Puan Juliana Evans was launched in January 2021. To date, all of the videos associated with the campaign have accumulated nearly 500,000 views on Tourism Selangor’s official YouTube channel. On the social media front, the campaign has attained over 15 million reach, meaning it has successfully attracted the attention of the masses. Tourism Selangor has taken it up a notch by releasing virtual reality (VR) and aerial-view videos featuring all of Selangor’s nine districts, and the videos have received close to 300,000 views altogether.


Kanching Waterfall

Tourism Selangor has also been working closely with the Selangor State Government, especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure the state’s tourism industry players’ business continuity. Since COVID-19 hit Selangor in 2020, several Economic Stimulus Packages have been announced by the Selangor State Government, which include the 2020 Selangor Economic Recovery Plan involving MYR2.6 million for Selangor’s tourism industry. The most-recent is the Kita Selangor 2.0 Package that underlines initiatives to recover and revitalise Selangor’s tourism industry using an allocation in the amounting to MYR2.55 million. As such, Tourism Selangor does not neglect tourism industry players during these tough times. As Selangor’s official Tourism Promotion Agency, it is able to balance the promotional initiatives with the welfare needs of its tourism industry players. 3) Where is the organisation heading in the future? Is the organisation embarking on new strategies? Tourism Selangor is geared towards “Tourism 4.0” and tourism digitalisation. In line with this vision, an allocation of close to MYR300,000.00 under the Kita Selangor 2.0 Package is earmarked for Tourism Digitalisation Workshop and Training for Selangor’s tourism industry players. Under the same Package, a Grant allocation of MYR1,000,000.00 for Selangor’s Domestic Tourism

Mahmeri

Recovery plan is set to rebuild the much-affected industry with fresh and creative ideas, approaches and initiatives, in congruent with Selangor’s 5-Year Tourism Masterplan 2020-2025. Tourism Selangor is also developing integrated tourism packages that wholly involving Selangor’s nine districts. With the two major campaigns namely “Pusing Selangor Dulu” for the domestic market and “Splendid Selangor: Take Me Anywhere” for the international market, Tourism Selangor will strengthen its digital presence via Google and YouTube advertising and influencer marketing campaigns. It also plans to strengthen its advertising campaigns on mass and digital media, including out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Familiarisation Trips (Fam Trips) involving the Media, including local and international travel agencies will be organised. It is imperative for Tourism Selangor to participate in the new-norm tourism promotional activities through digital platforms such as e-Travel Fairs and Virtual Inbound Marketplaces, including in-person domestic and international Travel Trade Shows / Fairs / Exhibitions when it is possible such as 2021 WTM London in November 2021 (subject to changes). Tourism Selangor intends to hold tourism events, programmes and roadshows with stringent health protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place.

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Gaya Special Feature

MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT Strives For Community Wellbeing Community wellbeing can be defined as the condition of a community that is safe, peaceful, prosperous and safe from all forms of disorder, threat or discomfort. The issue of housing is one such disruption that the Malaysian Ministry of Housing and Local Government strives to address and prioritise. After all, having a comfortable home is essential to secure the community members’ wellbeing.

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Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) is one of KPKT’s initiatives in providing affordable housing for the people.

Entrepreneurial activities through PEKB are expected to help generate income and improve the living standards of the community.

The ministry is always committed to implement various initiatives for the welfare of the people, in line with the desire to make wellbeing universal through the development of liveable housing projects, sustainable municipal services and fire protection system, which are all essential in improving people’s quality of life. Moreover, the ministry – through the National Housing Department – plays a crucial role in ensuring that the development of a perfect, high quality and more systematic housing sector can be enjoyed by the people of various income levels. The People Housing Program (PPR), Rumah Mesra Rakyat (RMR) and Housing for Civil Servants (PPAM) are among the projects aimed at boosting Malaysia’s affordable housing agenda and hence, fostering stability and security within the community. Through the ministry, the government has drawn up a plan of ‘One Million Affordable Homes’ within ten years (2018-2028) that is carried out by the federal government agencies, the state governments, and the private sector, especially for the benefit of families who are classified as part of the bottom 40% (B40) and middle 40% (M40) income ranges.


The urban residents who fall under the domain of local authorities (Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan / PBT) are offered assistance when facing economic challenges. Currently, the programme called ‘Program Azam Bandar’ (‘Urban Resolve Programme’) is given a new lease of life and rebranded as ‘Pemerkasaan Ekonomi Komuniti Bandar’ or PKEB (‘Urban Community Economic Empowerment’) to further promote entrepreneurship and commerce among the B40 group as the means to resolve the issue of unemployment, besides serving as a platform to drive the economy and generate income for the affected groups through the provision of targeted entrepreneurship training. In 2021, after obtaining additional budget, the PKEB programme is expanded to encourage the participation of urban youth in entrepreneurship projects.

• Inculcating Hygiene The goal for the nation’s socioeconomic development can only be achieved if the health of the people is guaranteed, families remain stable and the society lives in harmony. To achieve these attributes, cleanliness and care should be made priority and cannot be ignored. The active implementation of ‘Dasar Kebersihan Negara’ (‘National Cleanliness Policy’) carried out by the ministry is one of the government’s initiatives to make Malaysia cleaner and create a society that demonstrates good hygiene practices and uphold environmental sustainability. Various campaigns such as ‘3R’(‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’), ‘Let’s Do It Right’, ‘Trash to Cash’, ‘Waste to Art’, ‘Value Food No Waste Awareness’, the Free Market, ‘Berani Tegur’ (‘Dare to Reprimand’), ‘Say No to Plastics’, ‘Solid Waste Separation’ in residential, commercial, industrial and institutional areas are just some examples that the government has done to educate the public. Through efficient and comprehensive law enforcement by the PBT, effective environmental hygiene practices can be implemented by every member of the community. Such commitment does not only incentivise Malaysians to improve their hygiene, but also generate more economic opportunities. For example, through the efficient use of waste disposal, the recycling industry has great potential to be tapped as a new resource that can stimulate the circular economy among industry players.

Solid Waste Management

“We want Malaysians to cultivate a culture of garbage segregation and they should know that garbage is money. If this continues, there will be a sense of responsibility in them to always segregate and recycle,” stated the Minister of Housing and Local Government of Malaysia The Honourable Zuraida binti Kamaruddin. Population growth, rising socioeconomic status, rapid economic growth and increasingly modern lifestyle changes contribute to the challenges in maintaining a clean environment in the country. A poorly managed environment results in the spread of vector-borne infectious diseases that disrupt the wellbeing of mankind. Therefore, the ministry – through the State Solid Waste Management Department (JPSPN) and related agencies in issues involving to solid waste management public cleaning system – continues to intensify its activities and awareness programmes among the community by strengthening the ‘Solid Waste Separation at the Source’ and 3R campaigns, including encouraging recycling at the community level

The 3R, Let’s Do It Right and Trash to Cash campaigns raise awareness of recycling among the community.

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The continuous support from the community is crucial for sustainable environment.

and educational institutions. In addition, the use of cost-effective and environmental-friendly technology helps the government in keeping the environment safe and clean. The COVID-19 pandemic and the implementation of the Movement Conditional Order (MCO) have impacted the environment due to the increase of domestic waste considering companies and their customers these days respectively use and discard more packaging. As such, the ‘Zero Waste Community Initiative Program’ (ZeComm) organised by the ministry through SWCorp seeks to guide the community on the importance of segregating solid waste like food waste and treating solid waste appropriately through different approaches – one of them is by giving reward – so that the programme continues to be relevant and accepted by the community. The implementation of ZeComm has positively impacted in changing the community’s attitudes towards reducing solid waste. People begin to segregate solid waste and treat food waste accordingly, consequently enjoying the rewards from that practice. The amount of solid waste sent to landfills can be greatly reduced when people understand that the waste is more valuable if it were sent to the ZeComm centre instead. Indirectly, systematic solid waste segregation can reduce foul odours from food waste and create a cleaner home environment. For more information on the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, visit https://www.kpkt.gov.my/.


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Destinations

6 Key Attractions that You Must Visit (and Revisit) in Kuala Lumpur Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A K E R I Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MOHD JELANI

Kuala Lumpur is best known as the beating heart of Malaysia, with endless offerings that lure every type of individual. Hop onto the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system towards the revamped Chinatown, and foodies will find more hip eateries than they could count. Moreover, KL Sentral, Mid Valley City and Bangsar South these days have become popular hubs for techies; while cool creative crowds, on the other hand, flock to the likes of Bangsar, Dutamas and Chow Kit (The Row KL) because these are some of the places where contemporaneity and the avant-garde thrive. While there are many new points of interest mushrooming around the city as of late, various key attractions that have been around for some years continue to appeal and evolve as years go by. Together with the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau (KLTB) in conjunction with the #LepakKLLah promotional campaign, Gaya Travel rounds up six of these key attractions in Kuala Lumpur that worth visiting again, even if you have done so in the past.

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1. Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia www.iamm.org.my Topping the list is one of the most prestigious museums in Malaysia dedicated in safeguarding and preserving some of the finest Islamic works of art. Opened since December 1998, it currently houses over 12,000 valuable artefacts of the Islamic civilisation as far back as the 7th century, including delicate ceramics, jewelleries, original manuscripts to colourful textiles. Architecture aficionados should not miss the gallery featuring replicas of famous mosques around the world because each of them is represented in great detail, leaving visitors in awe. Be sure to also look out for the original 1964 Kiswa (the door curtain for the Ka’aba), an undoubtedly rare exhibit not easily witnessed anywhere else. For a full experience, wrap up your visit at the onsite restaurant, MOZA, which specialises in delicacies from West Asia. Entrance fees: MYR14 per adult / MYR7 per child 2. The River of Life www.klriver.org Enjoy the cool night air with a stroll along the River of Life, where the Klang and the Gombak rivers converge. It is located

behind the Masjid Jamek and Sultan Abdul Samad building, which are also icons in their own right. This converging point lights up at night with striking blue colour, and even features a ‘Dancing Symphony Fountain’ that incorporates water jets that play rhythmically according to music. The fountain show begins at 9.15pm. 3. Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex www.kraftangan.gov.my/en Taking pride as the one-stop centre to champion traditional Malaysian traditional artisanship, this complex is housed in a Malay Terengganu-inspired building. It not only makes handmade handicrafts from all parts of Malaysia more accessible, but also educates the community on the importance of preserving their heritage. Its Craft Village allows visitors to get up close with local artisans who skilfully do their work, while the onsite museum exhibits the evolving manufacturing technologies related to producing the handicrafts. Of course, the complex has several shops where visitors could get their hands on well-made products at competitive prices, including our personal pick: exquisite hand-painted stainless steel tiffin brand, Jeiwa.


4. MinNature Malaysia minnature.com This is an ideal edutainment centre for both children and adults. Located within the Summit USJ Shopping Complex, Subang Jaya, MinNature Malaysia is the world’s largest three-dimensional printed miniature wonderland with over 1,600 kilograms of ABS plastic used to create every model within the exhibition. The gallery boasts eight sections of varying themes representing the unique cultural heritage of Malaysia such as people, food and landmarks found in the nation. To make the exhibition more interactive, there are over 120 push buttons around the gallery that bring the exhibits alive through sounds, lights and movements. The gallery could also host a scavenger hunt for group visitors, especially young children, here in the gallery should they want to take the fun up a notch. Entrance fees: MYR25 per adult / MYR20 per child 5. Umbrella Walk, Brickfields Street Art After giving what used to be a filthy alley along Jalan Thambipillay a much-needed makeover, the area is now becoming a landscape for local creativity. Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) along with a group of street artists have spruced up the area with explosions of vibrant colours,

including an installation of umbrella canopies that somewhat shield pedestrians from heat and rain. And while you’re here, be sure to explore the area since it is filled with well-preserved historical gems such as the Moghul-style Vivekananda Ashram, The Hundred Quarters that have been around since 1915, and a pre-World War II traditional Malay house in front of the Maha Vihara Buddhist Temple. 6. National Museum of Malaysia www.muziumnegara.gov.my Malaysia’s National Museum sits on top of the site of the former Selangor Museum, which was partially destroyed in a blast at the end of World War II. Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, revived the site by building a completely new structure inspired by the traditional Minangkabau architecture and added specimens of flora and fauna apart from national historical and cultural treasures for the benefit of future generations. Serving as the guardian of the nation’s collective memory, the museum today displays its extensive acquisitions through its four galleries: Prehistory; Early Malay Kingdom; The Colonial Era; and the Malaysia Today. Entrance fees: MYR2 per visitor / MYR1 for elderly and disabled (OKU)


Sultan Abdul Samad Building when dusk falls (Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash)


Where to Stay? Indie Hotel Kuala Lumpur indiehotels.com.my Nestled within the neighbourhood of Jalan Ceylon close to Bukit Bintang, Indie Hotel is meant for urban dwellers who are hungry for excitement that the city offers. A quick five-minute walk brings guests to Changkat, a notable street dining district. Another 15-minute walk gets them to the busiest commercial triangle in the capital comprising major shopping malls and more top-notch dining options. Back at the hotel, Indie dazzles with its minimalist yet neverboring design, boasting a towering, white-washed façade that is unmistakably contemporary. The rooms are spacious and equipped with wireless internet access, minibar, coffee- & tea-making facilities, iron with board, hair dryer, 40-inch LED flat screen TV with premium channels, glass enclosed standing shower, inroom safe, large word desk with ergonomic chair, and luxurious pillow top beds. Gaya Travel Magazine team members extend our heartfelt gratitude to the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Bureau for its tremendous support for us to consistently promote the city’s unique attractions.

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Gaya Special Feature

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ITC Clinches Strategic Business Alliance Award i n Wo r l d H a l a l B e s t Brands E-Branding Awards 2021 The BrandLaureate World Halal Best Brands E-Branding Awards 2021 is an event to remember in the 12-year and running history of the Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC). ITC was selected as the recipient of the Strategic Business Alliance Award, in what was its maiden BrandLaureate scoop. In receiving the award, Director-General of ITC, Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Haji Hasan said: “I am pleased to accept this award for Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC). It is an acknowledgement of ITC’s dedication, and also the support from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) and fellow industry players in positioning Malaysia as the choice destination for Islamic tourism and Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality hub of global standards and recognition.”


Dato’ Dr. Mohmed Razip Hassan (front row, centre) receives the Strategic Business Alliance award Synonymous with ITC’s goal for 2021, that is ”new thinking, new actions, new results”, it will witness ITC strengthening its efforts through local, regional, and international collaborations, whilst engaging deeply with stakeholders and partners, and exploring technology and digital solutions, to deliver its products and services. Dato’ Dr. Razip further opined that ITC will continue in its endeavours to work with tourism industry players in areas of training, research, standards and recognition where Islamic tourism is concerned. This will be done by creating and spreading awareness on the vast potential that this segment of tourism has to offer, besides establishing benchmarks for Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality guidelines and providing advice and consultation in developing Muslimfriendly tourism packages and services. “Our target audience covers a wide range of those involved in tourism, namely, hoteliers, tourist guides, TOBTABs, airline companies and even training institutes. E-branding is undoubtedly a vital tool for ITC in order to remain in the Islamic tourism market that is proliferating exponentially and will continue to do so in the years to come.” He further opined that the pandemic that is COVID-19 came with a silver lining for mankind. It has opened up countless opportunities for us all to be more engaged with our partners and clients via digital technology. In fact, ITC has been conducting all of its training and knowledgesharing sessions online via webinars, besides

having been invited to be panelists or keynote speakers in similar avenues, on Islamic tourism and Muslim-friendly tourism and hospitality too. With a clear mindset, focus and direction, namely, the potential Muslim travel market, ITC wants to ensure the tourism sector is fully prepared once international gates are reopened. In order to realise the said goal, it will continue to foster partnerships and collaboration opportunities with strategic partners whilst leveraging on each other’s strengths and resources. BACKGROUND ON BRANDLAUREATE AWARDS The BrandLaureate Awards is a subsidiary of The World Brands Foundation (TWBF). Founded in 2005, TWBF is the world’s only branding foundation dedicated to developing brands in various industries. Since 2018, TWBF has created another awards platform to honour the Halal industry and its ecosystem, branding it the World Halal Best Brands Awards. 2021 marks the third edition of the awards, and its maiden run digitally with the theme “Digitalise to Globalise Your Brand. The category of award for which ITC was named recipient, Strategic Business Alliance Award, seeks to recognise brands that are standing strong, sustaining brand success and brand leadership by adopting new strategies to meet the new normal of the business environment, thus honouring entities who have brought business continuity and sustainability despite difficult situations.

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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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Destinations

Hiking in Malaysia after COVID-19 Lockdown – What to Expect Te x t & I m a g e s b y A D E L A R O S L A N

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During the pre-COVID-19 era, the surge of hikers was a boon for the scenic hiking trails throughout Malaysia. Unfortunately, the disastrous pandemic has put economic activities on hold, especially for those whose livelihood were largely dependent upon mountain tourism. Destinations that once welcomed hikers are now forced to reconsider the risk of welcoming out-of-towners seeking that perfect waterfall shot or jungle-vibe setting. At the same time, when the Malaysian state governments attempted to reopen their borders in late 2020 and early 2021 due to lower COVID-19 infections then, most tourism destinations were full house, much to the dismay of hikers who were craving to commune with nature in peace because the trails were crowded. If the pristine environment at the roof of the world can’t be kept free of COVID-19, what chance is there for the mountains and hiking trails in Malaysia once hikers flock back to them?


The view overlooking Baling from the mountaintop. Beware of sharp rocky formations!

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First, the trails might become dangerous for hiking. Long abandoned trails are covered by overgrown trees, weed and bushes that are now home to animals, especially predators like snakes that are well camouflaged. Malaysian mountain trails are not safe when animals build their habitats along the trails. Markings used for wayfinding along the trails might fade too, increasing the chance for hikers to lose their way. When hikers are lost, they get tired, eventually leading to disorientation and malfunctioning of body parts. Without proper maintenance of those trails, hiking wouldn’t be pleasant. Hikers must know and study the tracks, able to read maps and GPS, and bring the right gears. They need to be able to survive and come out in one piece. Generally, most mountains in Malaysia are guided by local hikers. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced them out of service and now they are left with no guiding jobs. What is currently happening to Malaysia’s stately mountains poses questions for tourism operators everywhere, especially Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest peak and arguably among the most rewarding hiking experiences. With mountaineers

paying MYR2,000 each for a climbing permit and revenue generated from lodging, transporting, guiding and feeding local and international hikers, opening the trail to Kinabalu’s lofty peak is lucrative for the local economy. However, due to the interstate travel restrictions and border closures, many jobs related to serving these hikers are fast disappearing, negatively affecting those who depend on guiding jobs for daily income. Going on hiking trips while minimising exposure to other hikers might be tricky. Sticking to two persons for a grocery trip, maintaining social distance in malls, and avoiding restaurants are easy. Conversely, the hiking trails can be narrow and the summits may not be expansive enough to accommodate large number of hikers at any one time, especially when everyone starts taking selfies. The virus could jump from one person to another when passing each other along a hiking trail or at the summit. At the moment, the best solution might be to hike along the trails that are not known by many people so the chances of bumping into other hikers remain small.


PREPARING FOR A HIKE POST-PANDEMIC For those who are just about to pick up hiking, it might appear intimidating at first. Truth be told, hiking is neither arduous nor complicated. One does not need special skills to hike; rather, one only needs to know how to walk on varying terrains and stay safe throughout the hike to come back home in one piece. Hiking is a great way to immerse ourselves in nature, get a good exercise, and recharge our batteries. The most important thing is not to overdo it. For those who are interested to start hiking, pick a trail that you can complete under two hours with minimal climbing. Once the trail becomes easy, then gradually increase the length of your hike in stages. To prepare for the hike, do research about the trails you are embarking on beforehand to have a good idea of what to expect: study the trail, identify the turns, and estimate how long your hike should take. Otherwise, you might get lost along the way. While walking is easier and climbing is fun, hikers should possess proper gears during the hike, starting with clothing. The most common mistake beginners make when hiking is by wearing regular clothes, resulting in them becoming heavy and chafed when sweating. Try wearing workout clothes, which are designed for intense activities. Long sweatpants or leggings are good for protecting the legs from getting scraped by bushes along the trail. Likewise, long sleeve tops protect hikers from the elements, and the sleeves can be rolled up when it’s hot. As for shoes, they are crucial because they help to get you safely into the wilderness and then out. One size bigger than the actual size is the most recommended fit and remember not to hike through dense trails using open-toe footwear or sandals. The other items on the list are backpack, water, snacks, and extra layers. One might forget to bring along an emergency or first aid kit, assuming the hike stays smooth and safe along the way; by right, this should be the first priority. Hiking can be fun, yet it could also develop into your worst nightmare. Be prepared for rain, leeches or for volatile temperature change. Start the hike as early as possible because the later in the day you begin the hike, the more crowded the trail. Night hike is not recommended for beginner hikers. In short, if you decide to hike, be sure to take all precautions and safety measures by adapting to the new norm since it is becoming obvious that we have no choice but to learn to live with COVID-19 as it turns endemic. Being extra attentive to the surroundings and adequately prepare for any form of eventuality are

essential for hiking post-pandemic. It also helps when all hikers are vaccinated and the Malaysian population has achieved herd immunity since it is proven that the vaccines can lessen the severity of COVID-19 infection. On that note, have a safe hike everybody!!!

Previous page, Clockwise from Top, Left: Right haversack is crucial for long hikes; Enjoying the clear sky when descending from the summit of Mount Tahan; If you were lucky, you might pass by pitcher plants along the trail; Hiking in groups is way merrier. Below: Gears checked before final packing for mountain trips Bottom: Be sure to rest when your legs start to sore

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Where is Adela heading to once interstate travel in Malaysia is allowed? #WhenAdelaHikes

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1. Mount Tahan, Pahang is the highest point in Pahang. The trails are long and hilly but the view is glorious. It’s full of wild animals and offer you the feeling of being on a safari while hiking. This is definitely my favourite pain.

5. Mount Irau, Pahang. The peak is super cold and the trail leading there is known as Mossy Forest with a mysterious atmosphere similar to the forest depicted in the movie Lord of The Rings minus the hobbits.

2. Mount Kinabalu, Sabah is a must-hike, so much so that the peak is depicted on the Malaysian MYR1 and MYR100 notes. When traversing the trail, you get to witness other peaks besides the summit. Kinabalu stands at 4,095.2 metres tall, the highest peak in Malaysia. The latest procedure on hiking Kinabalu during pandemic requires hikers to complete the two doses of vaccination and pass the swab test (RTK-Antigen, RTPCR) three days before hiking. Should hikers need to be quarantined at time of arrival, refer to the latest update by the Malaysian Ministry of Health by visiting https://covid-19.moh.gov.my/ garis-panduan/garis-panduan-kkm/ANNEX_9MANAGEMENT_OF_COVID-19_AT_POINT_ OF_ENTRY_17062021.pdf.

6. Mount Stong, Kelantan reserves second nicest spot to watch sunrise after Mount CBL. The waterfalls are safe for a dip and an ideal place to set up camp to get away from the urban bustle.

3. Mount Tok Nenek, Perak/Kelantan has a unique rocky peak that offers 360-degree view of the Titiwangsa Range. Nothing but lush greenery and sky.

9. Mount Ophir (Ledang), Johor is the highest point in the state. On the way to the summit, hikers need to climb hard and edgy rocks. Descending can be a bit of a challenge and might take longer because you might only see rocks and trees rather than a clear pathway, making you unsure where to place your feet.

4. Mount Chemerong, Berembun, and Langsir (CBL), all in Terengganu. Berembun is where you head to for summiting, Chemerong for the waterfalls, and Langsir for watching sunrise. When hiking up these mountains, remember to dip into the crystal clear Bangan river in between the three stops.

7. Mount GAP & Ulu Semangkuk, Pahang (they’re like twins). Among the easiest mountains to hike among the best trails for self-reflection, the views along the trails at these mountains are heavily dominated by trees and sometimes the sky. No wild animals. 8. Mount Nuang, Selangor. Top trail for training and making loops. You can start from the other part of Selangor and descend through the other way that leads to Janda Baik, Pahang.

10. Mount Kutu, Selangor is popular at above 1,000 metres high. The peak is just made up of huge rocks and you need to take the metal stairs tied between the rocks. Though it can pass off as scary, it is also thrilling and tests your willpower.


Clockwise from Top, Left: At the peak of Mount Tahan in Pahang, the highest point in Peninsular Malaysia; Hiking according to my own pace; Only greenery to be found along the way from Mount Tahan to Gedung; The top of Kutu Hill offers a 360-degree view of the dam, but hikers must always exercise caution when being here by not moving too much for safety reasons.

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Destinations

7 Establishments in

Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur

That You Might Have Overlooked Te x t b y FA R H A N A F UA D I m a g e s b y R E S P E C T I V E E S TA B L I S H M E N T S

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Many things have changed between February 2021 and September 2021. The freedom to travel, dining in restaurants and café-hopping are definitely among the things we most miss during the lockdowns imposed by the government as a way to control the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Being stuck in the Taman Desa neighbourhood, Kuala Lumpur (KL) during lockdown make me realise that it is necessary for people to adapt to the circumstances and instead start seeking solace within the confines of our homes and the neighbourhood where we are hunkered down. Interestingly, after some research and cautious exploration, I find out the existence of noteworthy establishments within Taman Desa that I have yet to try to satisfy my epicurean cravings. Hence, the following is a list of places around Taman Desa that serve great coffee, freshly baked pastries and pleasant cuisines that are halal or pork-free that you can head to once the lockdown is lifted!


Charlie’s Cafe Signature Chicken Chop

1. CHARLIE’S CAFÉ Voted as one of the Best Chicken Chop in KL by Foodadvisor.com, Charlie’s Café is a commendable place for a good meal. The specialty here is the Chicken Chop, including Charlie’s Delicious Laksa Series, chiefly among them is the mouth-watering Sarawak Laksa, made up of less oily and mildly spicy hot broth brimming with thick rice flour noodles, beansprouts, omelette, prawns, and chicken strip, all for a mere MYR13.90. This café also serves other comfort food such as steamed Nasi Lemak Serai Wangi and bakery with variety of desserts. Charlie’s Café are also available on Grab Food and Food Panda for you to enjoy it at home!

Sarawak Laksa at Charlie’s Cafe

29, Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Monday – Saturday) Price Range: MYR5 – MYR20 Website: https://charliescafe.oddle.me/ en_MY Instagram: mycharliescafe Facebook: orimycharliescafe2015

2. THAI LUCK This establishment serves a variation of noodles called Mama Mee topped with either handmade chicken balls or fresh river prawns inundated by spicy sourish tom yam broth. You can opt for other Thai dishes as well like the basil minced chicken rice and green curry chicken, then wash them down with an authentic Thai milk tea. Other than being a walletfriendly restaurant, Thai Luck is also a popular option on the delivery app so make sure to get these freshly prepared and no-preservatives Thai dishes delivered straight to your doorstep!

Tomyam Mama Mee at Thai Luck

Holy Basil Minced Chicken with Handmade Ramen at Thai Luck

7-0-11, Jalan 3/109f, Danau Business Centre, 58100 Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. (Daily) Price Range: MYR5 – MYR21 Website: https://thailuck.eatmol.com/ menu-thai-luck Instagram: thai_luck Facebook: thailuckthaicuisine

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Grilled Chicken Chop with Brown Mushrooms Gravy at Jemi Cafe

Crispy waffle pair with homemade buttery lemon curd at Jemi Cafe

Pastries served at Bakeroni Cafe

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3. JEMI CAFE If you are an avid coffee drinker, you are bound to enjoy the wide variety of coffees at Jemi Café. Besides classics such as espresso and latte, you can also opt for caffeine-free drinks such as matcha latte, chocolate and more. This café serves up variety of dishes that are great for your brunch, ranging from light ones such as salads, sandwiches and burgers to heavy ones such as rice, Western and pasta. With free Wi-Fi and casual vibe, this place is worth a visit once dining in is possible. Delivery is also available via GrabFood.

4. BAKERONI CAFÉ Deemed as an institution to those who live in Taman Desa because this establishment has been around for at least 15 years, Bakeroni Café is a casual cafe with a homely feel suitable for casual dining, breakfast, afternoon tea or just to enjoy a cup of freshly brewed cappuccino. Though the dishes served are mainly Western, there is a selection of local and fusion cuisines too. Its food is strictly pork-free, liquor-free and monosodium glutamate-free. Some items for instance toasted sandwiches, soups, desserts and plain croissants can be had for less than MYR10 each.

17-1, Jalan 2/109f, Taman Danau Desa, 58100, Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily (closed on Tuesdays) Price Range: MYR6 – MYR35 Instagram: jemicafe Facebook: jemicafe

Plain croissant served at Bakeroni Cafe

One of the breakfast served at Bakeroni Cafe

9A Jalan Desa Jaya, Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 7:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (Daily) Price Range: MYR5 – MYR35 Website: http://bakeroni.com/ Facebook: BakeroniCafe Instagram : bakeroni.cafe


Signature Pastries served at Kews Pattiserie

Pastries and desserts served at Encore Patisserie Café

6. ENCORE PATISSERIE CAFÉ With the range of pastries, desserts and main dishes on offer, you will definitely be impressed. Although the price might be on the high side, every single penny spent will be worth because this café serves the much-loved French-style sweet treats, scrumptious savouries and house brand coffee. Do expect for new things to come up regularly because the café constantly revamps its menu. Currently accepts takeaways and deliveries too.

Kews Pattiserie’s signature veggie fried chicken burger with homemade burger bun

1, Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. daily (closed on Tuesdays) Price Range: MYR3 – MYR50 Website: https://encoremy.wixsite.com/ encoremalaysia Facebook: encore.malaysia Instagram : encorepatisseriecafe

5. KEWS PATISSERIE A new addition in town, Kews Patisserie promises a variety of pleasant treats served amidst sophisticated and elegant interior, different than the other cafes in Taman Desa. It showcases many freshly baked cakes and tarts, soft and fluffy croissants, including sandwiches with well-balanced flavours that are perfect for tea.

7. AWAIT CAFÉ If you are looking for a nice afternoon spot, Await Café might just fit the bill since it dispenses hand-brewed coffee either through siphon or hand drip methods. The café prepares a variety of cheesecakes and light meals like sandwiches or croissants besides rice dishes. Once the lockdown has eased and dine-ins are permitted, the café’s cosy setting is sure to attract those who seek to unwind during a lazy afternoon or for a catch up session with friends.

33, Jalan Bukit Desa 5, Taman Bukit Desa, Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Tuesday-Sunday) Price Range: MYR8 – MYR20 Instagram: kews_patisserie Facebook: kews_patisserie

9-1-5, Jalan 3/109F, Taman Danau Desa, 58100 Kuala Lumpur Opening Hours: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily (closed on Tuesdays) Price Range: MYR10 – MYR20 Instagram: awaitcafekl Facebook: awaitcafekualalumpur

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Await Cafe’s Hand-brewed coffee


Destinations

Experience Mother Nature at

DESARU Te x t b y H A I FA H A S I M I m a g e s b y H A I FA H A S I M & N A D J WA TA J U D I N

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Going back to nature is a choice many city folks prefer because it offers spiritual remedy. It could be either losing ourselves in a forest of flora and fauna or submerging ourselves in a sea of corals. It’s a good step back from the fast-paced lives we are used to and serves as a reminder that there is more to life than the rat race, technology and gadgets! I was lucky to experience a side of Johor that is fun-packed with activities that connect me to Mother Nature, enough to fill my heart to absolute contentment! Desaru, Johor is a budding destination for seaside enthusiasts due to its pristine beaches and crystal clear water. However, its sandy beaches are not the only attractions – those seeking to have a wholesome nature experience will find Desaru to be a treasure trove beckoning to be explored!


Top: A serene view of the South China Sea from Tanjung Balau Geology Site boardwalk Bottom: A mini replica of fishermen village at Tanjung Balau Fishermen Museum

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Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary “Macam belangkas!” is what you’d probably heard growing up from your elders when describing close relationships and frankly, I never really understood why until I went to this sanctuary. Belangkas or horseshoe crabs are animals that have withstood the test of time since the age of dinosaurs. Having been in existence for over 200 million years, horseshoe crabs are a species considered as living fossils and you can observe (even hold) these animals at this sanctuary, which aims to reproduce as many horseshoe crabs as possible to save them from extinction by isolating the male and female in a ‘honeymoon room’. So going back to the Malay proverb, a horseshoe crab couple is literally inseparable during mating season! Fun fact: Horseshoe crab is a popular local delicacy here in Desaru, often cooked with sambal. Try savouring it whenever you’re in town!

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Teluk Sengat Crocodile World Facebook : Teluk Sengat Crocodile World This is the largest crocodile farm in West Malaysia, and definitely a world of its own. Over 1,000 crocodiles reside here under the loving care of the farm’s owner, Cecilia Ng. You can see many crocodiles ranging from the tailless to the blind and even toothless ones. The oldest crocodile here is over 150 years old! Moreover, stay on to watch the crocodile keepers feed these fierce reptiles. Visitors can even pet a baby crocodile. Fun fact: Baby crocodiles make duck-like sounds (quackquack); however, they begin growling like lions as they get older!

Operating hours Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Entrance ticket prices: Adult MYR8 | Child MYR4 T: +6 07 895 5220

Watch Fireflies Sparkle at Night with Bujang Boat Fire Fly bujangboatfirefly.blogspot.com Due to rapid development that comes hand in hand with noise pollution, fireflies are now a faint beauty not easily seen anymore. However, treat yourself to the gorgeous flickering lights from fireflies that inhabit the mangrove trees while enjoying delicious seafood dinner as you cruise along Sungai Lebam! Watching fireflies with Bujang Boat Fire Fly is an experience that should not be missed because after witnessing how the fireflies beam at night, you would find that the man-made bright city lights couldn’t even compare.

Tanjung Balau Fishermen Museum Facebook : Muzium Nelayan Tanjung Balau The treasured destination of Seram First opened its doors to the public in 1994, this museum is the only of its kind in Malaysia! A museum dedicated to enriching knowledge towards seafaring and local fishing industry, visitors can learn and observe the early history of fishermen by learning about their fishing techniques and tools, including superstitions and local beliefs relating to the sea. Visitors can also step into a replica of a traditional fisherman’s house to understand the lifestyle of the fishermen and their families.

T: +6 012 759 3468 / +6 013 702 7057

Operating hours Daily | 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Entrance ticket prices: Adult MYR2 | Child MYR1

Desaru Fruit Farm www.desarufruitfarm.com This farm spans over 100 acres of land and cultivates over 100 types of tropical fruits such as rose apple, jackfruit, starfruit, great hog plum, durian and more. Desaru Fruit Farm offers guided tours to ensure visitors get the best educational experience about local fruits, making it a perfect venue to teach city children and adults alike where the fruits actually come from, for surely they are not grown in supermarkets! After touring the farm, you can enjoy a lavish fruit buffet or opt for lunch comprising fruit-based fusion dishes that titillate your taste buds such as sweet and sour tom yam in coconut. Operating hours Daily | 8:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Entrance ticket prices: Adult MYR25 | Child MYR20 T: +6 07 822 5886

Tanjung Balau Geology Site Interestingly, the geological rocks at Tanjung Balau were formed over 300 million years ago! Consisting of metamorphic rocks such as quartzite and phyllite, these wind stress rocks are uniquely folded and shaped, and the most interesting to look at is the three-fold rock. Visitors can admire the interesting shapes of these centuriesold rocks while walking along a concrete boardwalk overlooking the beautiful waves of South China Sea!


Clockwise from top: Visitors can pet a baby crocodile at Teluk Sengat Crocodile World, a cocoa tree at Desaru Fruit Farm, visitors can hold a live horseshoe crab at Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary.

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Gaya Special Feature

9

M U S T - D O I N

S E R E M B A N

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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

Kajang

Beyond Its Satay Reputation Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A K E R I Images by SHAHIDA SAKERI & RESPECTIVE PRODUCT OWNERS

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Of late, Kajang has become a wonderful place to live and play, especially for those looking for better quality of life away from the chaos of an urban centre. In fact, the Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) has made a series of plans to turn this over-200-year-old township into a lifestyle destination of choice. This subdistrict of Hulu Langat has up-to-par education centres and health facilities, served by several highways for better connectivity to neighbouring areas, and access to the extensive Kajang-Sungai Buloh MRT Line. Of course, satay often comes to mind whenever Kajang is thrown into a conversation. But as delicious as that may sound, the area has more to offer. For instance, it has some of the most coveted golf hotspots in Malaysia that can cater to enthusiasts of any ability. The Sungai Long Golf & Country Club, for one, boasts the first world-class Jack Nicklaus Signature course in the nation. The 18-hole Impian Golf & Country Club that spreads across a 142-acre of resplendent course designed by Ross Watson is another desirable option, not forgetting its restaurant that is famous for consistent delicious offerings. On top of these, another Kajang’s charm is its wellpreserved heritage. Travellers should make way to the town centre and find rows and rows of historic two-storey shophouses that are still intact, giving us a glimpse of the olden days. After the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic abates in Malaysia, make way to the Kajang Heritage Centre at Jalan Mendaling, which is a treasure trove of engaging exhibits relating to the town’s legacy in the form of 300 artefacts, tools

and historical documents. Once the centre reopens, be sure to join its eye-opening three-hour guided tours that bring you along the trail of history-rich landmarks such as the first temple to be built in Kajang, Shen Sze She Yar temple; Soon Fatt sundry shop; an 80-year-old hardware shop, Hin Wah Tong; an old post office building; Masjid Jamek Kajang; and last but not least, Restoran Sate Hj Samuri that started the whole satay frenzy back in the 1960s. Kajang is also home to the Kajang Prison that has been around since 1975. Besides serving as the correctional and rehabilitation institution for law offenders, many do not know that there is also a gallery (Galeri Penjara Kajang) within the complex, where public can visit and shop for an array of affordable crafts. In fact, the institution has its very own Batik line called Batik Qaseh that has gathered strong following, including VIP customers such as Malaysia’s current Queen, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah. Come Eid season, members of the public can also get their hands on extensive range of biscuits sold at competitive prices here.


MPKj’s vision in making Kajang a liveable place also includes plans to make the township more appealing to youths. Plenty of recreational parks and centres have mushroomed in the area. One that is most notable is perhaps the Converse Skatepark Kajang, which is the first Converse skatepark in Asia Pacific and the third in the world. It offers a free and safe space complete with handrails, ledges, and stairs for all Tony Hawk-hopefuls to hone their high-speed and daredevil skills.

Where to eat? The food scene in Kajang is now more diversified and dare we say, more exciting as its population grows. On that note, we invite readers to embark on a food hunting trip to this township in Selangor for an ultimate eating pleasure. The list below comprises old favourites as well as new players, defined by distinctive culinary style so that whatever your preference may be, Kajang is bound to have it. Get ready to tingle your tastebuds! 1. MEET & DINE Starting off the list with a premium casual entry, Meet & Dine dazzles with its gorgeous understated interior within a repurposed factory, warm personable service and of course, palate-priming dishes that will leave you satisfied and uplifted. The menu is heavily packed with western specialities and additional stellar local flavours; but the one dish you must try is the oven baked salmon, which has fantastic flavour! Other

Clockwise from Above, Left: Galeri Penjara Kajang exhibits a wide range of crafts that public can purchase; Kunafa is a popular West Asian dessert that diners should order at Al Diafah Restaurant; Oven Baked Salmon is Meet & Dine’s signature dish; Australian lamb spare ribs set served at Laman Grill Steak & Bar B Que.

crowd favourites include Asian spice cannelloni, chilli crabs and lobster ravioli, all presented beautifully on the plates. This is the place you’ll go either to impress or be impressed! 29, Jalan Budiman, Budiman Business Park, Bandar Sungai Long, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Meet & Dine 2. LAMAN GRILL STEAK & BAR B QUE Another titan in the Kajang dining scene is Laman Grill Steak & Bar B Que, which maintains its strong reputation befitting its founder, the multi-award-winning Chef Zubir, who also happened to be a judge for MasterChef Malaysia. Every dish here is prepared with sophistication

and care according to the chef ’s exacting standards. The vast menu melds East and West inspirations, so patrons can expect to find something for everyone. But if the name of the restaurant doesn’t already give it away, locals usually flock to the place for its juicy steak and the highly-addictive Australian lamb spare ribs. 38, Jalan Impian Putra 2/3, Taman Impian Putra, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Laman Grill Steak & BarB-Que 3. AL DIAFAH RESTAURANT – KAJANG Within the extravagant rooms of Al Diafah lies an unrivalled reverence for authentic Middle Eastern fares and classic hospitality. The place was a huge hit for gatherings or even entertaining international guests during the prepandemic days. The restaurant’s loyal customers also rave about the extensive offerings here, but for a start, go with the bestseller dishes such as the Al Diafah rice, the Royal Mixed Grill and the Shish Tawouk (chicken kebab). Just be mindful that the portions of the dishes can be generous, so come only when you are really hungry! No.12 & 13, Jalan Putra 6, Taman Putra Kajang, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Al Diafah Express

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Clockwise from this page, Top, Left: Masak Lomak Cili Api is smoked traditionally; Nasi Kerabu at Narak comes with generous portion; The fried tilapia set at Rumah Cibiuk; Charcoal Bun Unagi by Oscar Coffee & Food; Shen Sze She Yar Temple prayer pavilion; Gamboroni prepared by Kayan + Co; The Shell Platter Terangkat set at Ikan Bakar Terangkat; Nasi Lemak Bungkus is the bestseller at Warung Bunian.

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4. BANGI MASAK LOMAK CILI API Established since 2017, this eatery has always been popular among those in the know. The menu is of course dominated by its signature delicacy, masak lemak cili api, which strictly follows a family recipe originating from Kuala Pilah and has been passed down for multiple generations. Those who love this type of dish could be rest assured that its authenticity is not compromised. Interestingly, the owner Kak Na still practices the traditional method of using coconut shells to smoke the meat for one hour to one hour and a half, which brings out the dish’s brilliant smoky flavour paired oh so perfectly with the spiciness of the gravy. Safe to say, it will leave you licking your fingers. Patrons may choose between beef, catfish, chicken, duck and sea snail. If you remain curious and have some space in your tummy to spare, why not try every one of those dishes? After all, the prices here are reasonable. This is also where you can get the extremely hard-to-find sambal tempoyak daun kayu (spicy fermented durian cooked with cassava leaves). N9 Food Court, Kampung Sungai Ramal Dalam, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Bangi Masak Lomak Cili Api

5. KAK SU NASI KERABU NARAK Kak Su Nasi Kerabu Narak – or simply called Narak by the locals – claims to be a strong purveyor of authentic Kelantanese flavours in Kajang. Judging from the usual 7:00 a.m. frenzy at this shop, it might probably be right. The menu covers Peninsular Malaysia’s East Coast staples such as laksam (flat rice noodles in fish gravy laced with coconut milk), solok lada (stuffed chillies), nasi kerabu (herb rice) and nasi dagang (greasy rice steamed with coconut milk and eaten with fish curry). They also serve traditional Kelantanese kueh (sweetmeats) for light eaters. 40, Jalan Cheras, Kampung Sungai Sekamat, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Kak Su Nasi Kerabu Narak 6. WARUNG BUNIAN As the sun begins to brighten the sky, you will find locals jam-packing this humble eatery for a quick first meal of the day. This stall’s menu starts with classic Malay breakfast fares before turning into a completely different spread for lunch. That being said, we recommend coming here as early as possible to try its best-selling Nasi Lemak Bungkus (packed rice cooked in coconut milk) and Roti Jiwa Kacau (‘pancake made by a ‘troubled soul’). Though simple in nature, both dishes are explosive in flavours. Do not be surprised to find the food almost finished by 9:00 a.m.; after all, the early bird catches the worm, right? But if you are pressed for time, they also take advance order online or via Whatsapp

on +6 017 381 2246. Jalan Jamaludin, Kampung Sungai Merab, 43000 Kajang, Selangor Facebook: Warung Bunian 7. IKAN BAKAR TERANGKAT There are two reasons why people keep coming back to Kajang’s very own seafood joint, Ikan Bakar Terangkat: it offers affordable prices; and its fresh seafood ranging from fishes, crabs, squid, mussels, prawns to cockles are sourced on daily basis. Each of your selection will then be grilled to perfection over a medium fire, topped with the joint’s own winning, homemade sambal. On top of these, the shop also offers shellout-style seafood platters should customers prefer to take their feast up a notch. No. 1, Lot 3083, Jalan Ayer Itam, Kampung Sungai Merab Luar, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Ikan Bakar Terangkat


8. RUMAH MAKAN CIBIUK For the days when you crave for Indonesian food, head no further than Rumah Makan Cibiuk. This Bandungoriginated chain is starting to gain foothold in Malaysia, consistently feeding fans with authentic Sundanese recipes. Our personal favourites are nasi liwet (spiced coconut rice served with fried chicken) and the fried tilapia set. Those who can handle spiciness should try its sambal, but beware: it is terribly spicy! No.1-G, Jalan Putra 6, Taman Kajang Putra, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Rumah Makan Cibiuk Malaysia - HQ Kajang 9. OSCAR COFFEE & FOOD Oscar Coffee & Food is not ostentatious by any means. The design is kept minimal and sleek with just enough Japanese touches to give the restaurant a sense of place. But do not expect the food served at this establishment to be as restrained because its head chef – who has 20 years of experience in Japanese culinary arts under his belt – develops a specially curated list. Of course, tasty sushi and sashimi are available, yet it is the signature cheesy Oscar oysters that are the real scene-stealers. Conclude your meal by ordering a nice cup of coffee as the perfect palate cleanser. 15, Mutiara Avenue, Mutiara Heights, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Oscar Coffee & Food

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10. KAYAN+CO CAFÉ Kayan+Co took over an unassuming corner of Bangi Square near Kajang Bus Terminal and turned it into a relaxing, child-friendly space serving a mixture of local and Western food. The home special Gamboroni (spaghetti with prawns in a fresh tomato sauce) is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser; but do not sleep on the café’s laksa goreng and Kogalo duo burger since both are packed with incredible flavours too. Bring along colouring books or bubble sticks on a good sunny day because the café has ample space for the little ones to run loose. Jalan Reko, Taman Perindustrian Kajang, 43000 Kajang, Selangor. Facebook: Kayan+Co café


Destinations

North of Taipei A Halal Taiwanese Adventure to Beitou and Shilin Districts 108

Malaysians who are looking to have a quick getaway to a four-season country may consider visiting Taiwan, which is less than five hours away by direct flight. The country has culture, nature, good food and the people are nice! The public transportation system is excellent too, which makes it easy for independent travellers to discover Taiwan on their own. Muslim independent travellers from Malaysia have steadily been making their way to Taiwan, especially its capital Taipei in recent years. A big push factor for this is due to the availability of Halal meals and musolla (designated Muslim praying area) throughout in the country. Taipei City Government have been working closely and diligently with Chinese Muslim Association (CMA), the governing body for Halal / Muslimfriendly certification in getting many hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions certified. Currently in Taipei alone there are 43 hotels, 33 restaurants and 10 attractions certified to date and the list is growing. In 2020, three tourist attractions and 11 accommodations such as Yangmingshan National Park, Bopiliao Historic District, and Caesar Hotel Taipei have been Muslim-friendly certified under the guidance of Taipei City Government’s Department of Information and Tourism. This year, the department continues to guide more tourist attractions and accommodations so that Muslims can enjoy and stay in Taipei with peace of mind.

Taipei Muslim Friendly Dining & Accomodation

Taipei Muslim Friendly


Where Do I Go from the Airport? The Airport MRT is the fastest and easiest way to reach Taipei Main Station, the main transportation hub and gateway to the rest of the country. It is also connected through underground passageways to the terminal station of Taoyuan Airport MRT and the Taipei Bus Station. At the airport, get yourself an EasyCard, which is a prepaid card that can be used in all modes of public transport and most convenience stores. Before boarding the Airport MRT, please check if it is a purple express train or a blue commuter train. The express train takes 35 minutes to arrive at Taipei Main Station and the commuter train takes 50 minutes. Free 4G WiFi, luggage lockers and charging service are available at all stations. Express trains are equipped with wireless charging service and luggage racks as well. Once you reach Taipei Main Station, you can take MRT system and head to wherever you need to be. If you were feeling famished, it is a good idea to first grab something to eat at the main station. For that reason, one place you can head to is Delhi Xpress, located at the food court on the second floor. It offers a variety of South Asian dishes, including tandoori roast chicken, coconut chicken, lamb curry, chicken curry, and lemon curry. The food is delicious with big portions. Delhi Xpress Phone: +886-2-6632-8999 Opening Hours: 11:00-22:00 Address: 2F, No. 3, Beiping West Road, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City Website: https://www.breezecenter.com/en/stores/5589 •

Beitou District If you were in need of a relaxing getaway, then head to Beitou District, which is home to many hot springs due to its

proximity to a dormant volcano. It is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season. The spring season is from mid-January to late February. Nature lovers are bound to find Beitou amazing. From Taipei Main Station, take the red line on Taipei Metro to get to Beitou Station. Once you reach Beitou Station, proceed to take the pink line and go to Xinbeitou Station that is just one stop away. The ride is about 30 minutes. Xinbeitou is where the hot springs and other attractions are located. Where to Stay in Beitou? Spring City Resort There are five certified Muslim-friendly hotels in Beitou District. Spring City Resort – standing right next to Xinbeitou MRT Station – is convenient for independent travellers. The hotel has a beautiful garden, lined with distant mountain views and lush greenery. The hot spring is of course a major feature of the resort. The resort is close to the source of the big Sulphur mouth and is dominated by white Sulphur spring with temperature range of 38 to 42-degree Celsius. Because the white Sulphur springs are milky white, it is also called “Milk Soup”. The rooms have bath made from Guanyin stone and cypress wood, where guests can soak in the privacy of their own rooms. There are also nine open-air hot spring pools to choose from, each with different settings. Other facilities include swimming pool, gymnasium and spa. The Muslim-friendly rooms come with prayer mat, qibla indicator, and halal breakfast. Address: No. 18, Youya Road, Beitou District, Taipei City Phone: +886 2 2897 2345 Website: https://www.springresort.com.tw/en/

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What’s in Beitou? Guandu Nature Park Did you know that among the 400 species of migratory birds in Taiwan, over 200 species can be found in Guandu Nature Park?

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Lying at the confluence of Keelung and Danshui rivers, as well as being blocked by Datun Mountain, Guandu Plain is fertile and rich in ecology. It has become the best resting place for many migratory birds. Different types of migratory birds can be seen in the park according to different seasons. In addition to the birds, the park is also home to many swamp creatures like fiddler crabs and mudskippers. Guandu Natural Park and Danshui District occupies an area of 57 hectares of marsh wetlands, which are divided into five areas: main facility area, conservation core area, outdoor observation area, and sustainable management area. The centre of the main building is dedicated for ecological education, Research and Visitor Service Centre. There is also a high-powered telescope for bird watching. Alternatively, a birdwatching hut is available to observe the birds more closely. A musolla is available for Muslim visitors at the main building. Address: No. 55, Guandu Road, Beitou District, Taipei City Phone: +886-2 2858-7417 Website: https://gd-park.org.tw/en/frontpage Opening Hours: 09:00-17:30 on weekdays / 09:00-18:30 on holidays (closed on Mondays) Ticket price: 60 yuan for full ticket, 30 yuan for preferential ticket Yangmingshan National Park Taipei city dwellers often head to Yangmingshan (Yangming Mountain) for fresh air. With altitudes ranging from 200 metres to 1,120 metres, Yangmingshan is remarkably accessible. There are many scenic spots around, especially during spring when cherry blossoms, hydrangea and calla

lilies in Zhuzi Lake are blooming. Yangmingshan National Park occupies a vast area. Do make the Visitor Centre as your first stop because you can get a sweeping view of the area from there. The visitor centre is mainly divided into different sections: the Main Hall, ecological experience space, cultural specialty area and atrium exhibition. In addition, there are also nursing room for mothers, free wireless Internet access, mobile phone charging station, wheelchair loan (complimentary) and a musolla. Yangmingshan National Park is not only rich in natural ecology, but also a major feature of geology. In fact, this area has a majestic landscape and topography due to the volcanic activities throughout the ages, including sites such as Dayoukeng, Xiaoyoukeng and Mazhao. Fumaroles (openings in the earth’s surface that emit steam and volcanic gases) can be seen too, and this phenomenon forms hot spring within the area. As a matter of fact, Beitou hot spring is formed by the volcanic activities of the Datun Mountains. Address: No. 1-20, Zhuzihu Road, Yangmingshan, Taipei City Phone: +886-2-2861-3601 Opening Hours: 09:00 - 16:30 Website: https://www.ymsnp.gov.tw/main_en/


Beitou Hot Spring Museum This museum used to be a public hot spring bath during the Japanese Occupation. Its British Tudor building architecture itself is an attraction in its own right. Entrance is free. The museum mainly introduces the history and development of Beitou, including the footprints of the Kedage tribe, Datun volcano, Beitou stone, and the origin of hot springs. The outdoor amphitheater of the museum holds performances and is also a community activity center. The Beitou Hot Spring Museum is not only a precious memory of history, but also a deep condensate of Beitou residents’ feelings for the land. Address: No. 2, Zhongshan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City Phone: +886 2 2893 9981 Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00 (Closed on Mondays and national holidays) Website: https://hotspringmuseum.taipei/ Geothermal Valley Situated adjacent to Beitou Hot Spring Park and being one of the sources of Beitou Hot Springs, Geothermal Valley gives off high temperature of between 80° and 100° Celsius, earning it the moniker Hell Valley among locals! In the past, tourists often used hot spring water to boil “hot spring eggs”, but recently, in order to protect the quality of hot spring water and avoid accidents caused by tourists falling, it is forbidden for people to boil eggs here in geothermal heat. Don’t bring food here! Address: Between Zhongshan Road and Wenquan Road, Beitou District, Taipei City Time: 09:00 - 17:00 (Close on Monday, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day) •

Shilin District Although nearby, the vibrant Shilin District is a huge contrast to the serene Beitou district. In addition to being a place for commerce, education, education, and entertainment, Shilin is also popular with the foreigners to live, set up businesses and most embassies are in Shilin.

Where to Stay in Shilin? Shilin Ding 24H Hotel This budget hotel is the only Muslim-friendly hotel in Shilin District, located just a stone’s throw away from Shilin Night Market. This is an excellent choice of stay if you were planning to truly explore the market. Muslim-friendly rooms come with prayer mat, qibla indicator and Halal breakfast. Address: Floor 1-4, No. 26, Anping Street, Shilin District, Taipei City Phone: +886 2 2881-3133 Website: https://inn-2028.business.site/?utm_ source=gmb&utm_medium=referral What’s in Shilin? Shilin Night Market Shilin is home to plenty of museums and places of attractions. But if time is limited, be sure to not miss the Shilin Night Market and enjoy what Taiwan is famous for: street food! Shilin Night market is the biggest in Taiwan, so it is also the best place to find various local food, souvenirs, and of course, arcade games like shooting darts and arrows. Be sure to soak up Shilin Night market’s carnival-like atmosphere when you are there. Opening hours : 15:00 to 24:00 If you were feeling hungry, head to the nearby Maji Maji Square next to MRT Yuanshan Station, where you can find Masala Art, a Halal certified restaurant that serves up chicken tikka, chicken triangle buns, cauliflower pakora, and various special curries. Finish everything off with a cup of authentic Indian milk tea. Address: No. 1, Yumen Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei City Phone: +886 2 2597 6960 Opening Hours: Monday to Thursday 11:30-14:30, 17:0021:30/Friday 17:00-21:30/Monday, Sunday 11:30-21:30

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Where to Stay in Ximending? Just Sleep Ximending Hotel This Muslim friendly hotel is just a short walk away from Ximen MRT Station, meaning it is easily accessible for independent travellers. Just Sleep Taipei Ximending is close to the bustling and lively Ximen shopping district, including historical spots. This trendy and affordable hotel offers comfortable rooms, free internet connection, gym, laundry room and unique kaleidoscopic lounge. The hotel serves halal breakfast too.

Where else to Go? Ximending Ximending is a modern and trendy neighbourhood in Wanhua District that is known for shopping and dining. It is the first pedestrian-only zone in Taiwan. You will find the latest fashions in Taiwan, the best shopping, boutiques and food outlets here.

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Bopiliao Historic Block Bopiliao is in Wanhua District. This is where Taipei began, making it a very important piece of Taiwanese history. Coming here is like stepping back in time. The old buildings have been refurbished back to its original glory, which is a mixture of southern Fujian and Western architecture. Bopiliao is one of the last few remaining streets from the Qing Dynasty that still exists in Taipei City today. The settlement spans from the Qing Dynasty, the Japanese Occupation all the way to the Republic of China, with mixed architectural styles. Bopiliao is now an artistic and cultural zone, popular among youngsters for photography. In year 2020, under the guidance and certification of the Department of Information and Tourism,Taipei City Government, Bopiliao became the newest Muslim-friendly attraction in Taipei City There is also a musolla for Muslim visitors’ convenience. Address: Lane 173, Kangding Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City Phone: +886 2 2302 3199 Opening Hours: block -09:00-21:00/indoor 09:00-18:00 (closed on Monday) Website: https://www.bopiliao.taipei/

Do hunt for Halal beef noodles when you stay here. Two popular shops, Chang Beef Noodle Shop and Muslim Beef Noodles, are located nearby. Address: No. 41, Sec. 1, Zhonghua Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei City, Taiwan Phone: +886-2-2370-9000 Website: https://www.justsleep.com.tw/ximending/tw Taipei Kingshi Hotel Kingshi Hotel Taipei is located at the heart of Ximending shopping district and is only a two-minute walk to Ximen MRT Station. Historic buildings such as Red House Theatre, Nishi Hongan-ji, Chengen Gate (North Gate), and other popular tourist spots like Ximending hiking area, shopping centres and night markets are all within walking distance. This Muslim-friendly hotel is a smart and practical choice for travellers who are looking for a centrally located accommodation. Address: 7/F, 142 Kunming Street, Wanhua District, Taipei City Phone: +886-2-2381-8131 Website: http://www.kingshi-hotel.com.tw/ For more information, please browse Taipei Muslim Friendly website: https://www.travel.taipei/en/must-visit/halal


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RENTAK SELANGOR Reviving the sounds of Selangor

The ‘Rentak Selangor’ programme that began in 2016 aims to revitalise the intangible cultural heritage found in Selangor, from old traditions that survived the test of time, to the modern-style live performances enjoyed by youngsters. The programme is organised by the Committee of Rural and Traditional Villages Development, Malay Customs, Culture and Heritage; the Selangor State Government State Economic Planning Unit (UPEN); and supported by the Majlis Kebudayaan Negeri Selangor (MKNS); Gaya Travel Magazine; and the Selangor media. Facebook: Rentak Selangor Hashtag: #RentakSelangor

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KITA KE KAMPUNG Championing Selangor’s crafters

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Kita Ke Kampung programme is part of the Selangor State Government’s initiative to boost the socio-economy within rural communities. It is implemented through the Selangor State Rural Development and Culture Committee in collaboration with the Selangor State Media Organization. In addition to improving the standard of the economy through the generation and increase of income, the promotion made by the media will also be able to help the rural product owners to promote their products.

Facebook: KitakanSekampung Hashtag: #KitaKanSekampung


Gaya Special Feature

5 MUST-TRY

KOPITIAMS IN SELANGOR Savour authentic taste of coffee and classic toast at these 5 Locations Te x t b y T O U R I S M S E L A N G O R

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Besides nasi lemak, Malaysians love having breakfast at Kopitiam, which generally means ‘coffee shop’ in Hokkien dialect. This kind of eatery was introduced by the people from Hainan who were mostly involved in the hospitality industry back during the days of British Malaya. Fast forward to today, kopitiams are now part of the quintessential Malaysian life, popular for dine-ins and take-outs. The following are the five must-try kopitiams in Selangor for you to relish authentic taste of coffee and scrumptious classic toast!

© masz_princesshoneybee on IG

AUNTIE KOPITIAM, KUALA SELANGOR Auntie Kopitiam is a famous coffee shop located in Kuala Selangor district that has been operating since 1935. Several Malaysian celebrities have imbibed their coffee here and many television programmes have featured this kopitiam. In addition to sipping delicious traditional Hainanese coffee, diners get to enjoy other staples such as nasi lemak, pastries, toast and more. Be sure to order the kopitiam’s signature Curry Laksa Mee, making it a perfect start for your day! Tel: +6 03 3289 7289

Auntie Kopitiam, Kuala Selangor


THONG KEE CAFE, PETALING Thong Kee Kopitiam is one of the famous kopitiams in Petaling district with its unique coffee menu. Its owner – who possesses over 30 years of experience – has come up with ‘1+1 Cham Peng’ beverage by combining Hainan coffee and tea with ice, which has been receiving overwhelming response. In addition to ‘1+1 Cham Peng’, the shop also serves a variety of breakfast options that include toast, half-cooked eggs, and pastries like croissants and doughnuts. Tel: +6 03 7496 6847 https://thongkee.com.my/

Undoubtedly, kopitiams are wellloved by all Malaysians, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion. Do not miss the chance to taste authentic kopitiam delights when you are travelling around Selangor. However, since the whole world is still battling the Covid-19 pandemic, remember to abide by the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by Malaysia’s National Security Council. Always ensure social distancing, wear face masks in public, and properly sanitise or wash your hands regularly.

Chong Kok Kopitam, Klang

NAM WAH KOPITIAM BT 18, HULU LANGAT Located in Hulu Langat district, Nam Wah Kopitiam Batu 18 is a popular stopover among cyclists due to its proximity to the relatively challenging natural bike tracks. Thus, it is to a nosurprise for you to bump into many cyclists when dining here. The special thing about this kopitiam is that it serves toast with a selection of kaya or chicken curry that is specially prepared by the coffee shop owner. https://www.facebook.com/namwahbt18/

For more ideas on what to do in Selangor, visit www.selangor.travel. Tourism Selangor is also present on Instagram (@discoverselangor), Facebook (@TourismSelangor), Twitter (@TourismSelangor), and TikTok (@TourismSelangor), including YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/ user/tourismselangor).

KEDAI MAKAN HAILAM SUN SUN NAM CHEONG, HULU SELANGOR Sun Sun Nam Cheong is one of the long-operating coffee shops in Selangor, famous for its original recipes dating more than 100 years old. Apart from

© carrine.yap on IG

Nam Wah Kopitiam Bt 18, Hulu Langat

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#ImagineNowExperienceSoon © Nam Wah Kopitiam Bt 18 on FB

CHONG KOK KOPITAM, KLANG Used to be a hotel but now a classic coffee shop, Chong Kok Kopitiam is popular among locals regardless of background. Having been operating since 1940, diners can witness groups of customers from various ethnicities enjoy their coffee and toast together. This kopitiam prepares half-cooked eggs using a special machine that make the eggs tastier and creamier than other methods used elsewhere. Tel: +6 03 3371 0996 https://www.facebook.com/chongkok. kopitiam

© cheejinqshyan_188 on IG

© health_eat_fit in IG

Thong Kee Cafe, Petaling

coffee, this coffee shop serves up Hailam Chicken Chop and Hailam Mee. The former is a dish created by the Hainanese people who migrated to Malaysia during the British colonial era, hence its Western and Chinese fusion. Sun Sun Nam Cheong is halal certified and the menu is prepared using halal ingredients. Tel: +6 03 6064 1168

Kedai Makan Hailam Sun Sun Nam Cheong, Hulu Selangor


Destinations

Spunky Sepang Te x t & I m a g e s b y FA R I DA H DA H A L A N

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Travellers simply shouldn’t miss this place because as soon as planes touch down in KLIA, it means they already enter Sepang district, which is the youngest in Selangor. Although Sepang is in the southern part of Selangor, folks from Nilai in neighbouring Negeri Sembilan often come here to shop and enjoy a weekend getaway.


The Place to Stay in Sepang: Movenpick Hotel & Convention Centre KLIA www.movenpick.com/klia We stayed at the amazingly designed Movenpick Hotel & Convention Centre KLIA equipped with efficient facilities. Owned by Lembaga Tabung Haji, travellers can spot the Islamic elements such as geometric and interlace patterned ornament on the building’s walls, which looks simply breathtaking when set against the clear blue sky as backdrop! Standing next to the hotel is the Convention Centre that is ideal for big or intimate events. Travellers can choose to hold their events at Anjung Tinjau for a breezy open-air experience or at Astaka for its stylish ambiance. Movenpick Hotel & Convention Centre KLIA distinguishes itself from the other upscale hotels by organising Chocolate Hour from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00

p.m. every day, the time when the hotel dishes out various chocolate delights to its guests for free! Do not miss this joyous treat, including light snacks, at Sira in the lobby lounge which operates from 11:30 a.m. until midnight. Movenpick Hotel & Convention Centre KLIA also provides a complimentary scheduled airport transfer for its guests every two hours from as early as 4:00 a.m. until midnight, which is very convenient! For those who want to relax, bring along your swimsuits to the swimming pool. The area is surrounded by date trees that provide shade from the heat. The female swimming pool is separated from the male’s for complete privacy. Things to do in Sepang So, what exciting things can you do in Sepang? Let’s explore the following list: 1. National Automobile Museum, Sepang http://www.jmm.gov.my/en/nationalautomobile-museum-sepang This museum was the brainchild of Malaysia’s fourth and seventh Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and has been opened to the public for free since March 2004. Located within the Sepang International Circuit’s Welcome Centre, the museum is home to 22 classic and local automobile models, a haven for car enthusiasts and collectors. The first floor of the museum showcases The Brushmobile made in 1904, Jaguar D type in 1955 and Austin Healey 3000 in 1960. The exhibits on the second floor might be familiar to all Malaysians: vehicles created by local companies such as Proton, Modenas and Perodua are on show. To visit this museum, travellers should inform the guards at the entrance gate and they will let you in. Visiting Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. Closed on Eid Fitri and Eid Al-Adha

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2. Sepang International Circuit www.sepangcircuit.com A visit to Sepang is not complete without taking the tour to Sepang International Circuit (SIC), the home to Malaysia’s international circuit, which happen to be among the finest circuits and marshals in the world! So much trust is being put in SIC by the automotive and motorsports industries that 54% of its clients consist of international automobile manufacturers testing out their models in tropical climate. Besides being designed to suit every aspect of motorsports, SIC also provides track rental venue-forhire service to suit whatever event you are staging. If you find walking down the aisle to exchange vows is just too mainstream, then you could opt to walk down a race track instead for your wedding; better yet, strut on a runway fashion show on the same track where Lewis Hamilton drove!

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3. HL Restaurant & Café facebook.com/HL-RestaurantCafe-144994542571968 We found ourselves roaming the grounds of a lush dragon fruit farm owned by HL Nursery Trading at noon. The café manager, Miss Queenie refreshed us with vibrant pink Lokal Pitaya Wholesome Juice, a dragon fruit-based beverage served with salad on top. The highlight of our meal was when Miss Queenie gave us a demo on how to eat the Jumbo Dragon Curry Bun, a soft round bread with curry chicken filling – dipping the bread into the curry is a perfect match! Once our stomachs were full, it was time to burn the calories off by touring the farm. This two-hectare land is filled with hundreds of dragon fruits ripe for picking. We spent two hours on the farm and would be happy to do it again! 4. Mitsui Outlet Park www.mitsuioutletparkklia.com.my Mitsui Outlet Park (MOP) is without doubt a paradise for shoppers. Located eight minutes away from KLIA, travellers can do last-minute shopping at this Malaysian-meets-Japanese

culture shopping mall. MOP offers free shuttle service to KLIA and KLIA 2. Travellers may shop in style since MOP provides free luggage storage near to the bus drop off point. Upon completion of its phase 3 plan which is set to be completed in 2021, MOP will be the largest factory outlet in Southeast Asia. After checking out the entire shopping centre, we rested our legs at Leten Restaurant (https:// www.paradisegp.com/leten/) on the first floor, which served up seven unique and cute looking dim sum! Our personal favourites were Signature Original Chicken Xiao Long Bao and Chocolate Xiao Long Bao. Do ask the waiters or even the friendly restaurant manager, Miss Faridah, on how to eat the Signature Originals Chicken XLB to avoid burning your tongue! Gaya Travel Magazine team extends heartfelt gratitude to Movenpick Hotel & Convention Centre KLIA and Tourism Selangor for making this two-day exploration of Sepang possible.


Hotels & Resorts

Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre, Your Home in the City Te x t b y I R N E E N O R R I S Images by HOLIDAY INN JOHOR BAHRU CIT Y CENTRE

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Johor Bahru, affectionately called JB, almost always bustles with locals and visitors, especially during weekends since it is just across the narrow causeway from Singapore. Due to its rapid development and growth as a tourist destination, many international hotel chains and boutique properties have opened their doors in Peninsular Malaysia’s most southern city to be part of the action. One of the latest properties to open in JB is Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre, which possesses all the right combinations that meet travellers’ expectations. Holiday Inn – a brand name under Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) – is well known for offering affordable premium comfort.


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Fuss-free, straightforward, and contemporary, Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre is fast making its mark as a bastion of convenience since it stands right in the heart of Johor Bahru, thus making it reachable to various types of services, facilities, opportunities and attractions that the city offers, even by way of foot if guests so choose. “I am very excited to be a part of Holiday Inn hospitality brand in Johor Bahru, in which this southern state has been the epicentre of Malaysia’s trade, dining and entertainment. The city is steeped in rich history as it connects the traditional with the modern in its gastronomy, architecture and culture. We are confident that the hotel will be a landmark for visitors and locals alike in Johor Bahru as one of the top destinations,” notes Ms Keyin Tay, the Assistant Director of Marcom for Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre. Convenience is key Nestled in the heart of the city centre, a short 30-minute drive away from Senai International Airport, the hotel offers easy access to some of the best food, shopping and entertainment options in downtown JB, including Skyscape JB, Heritage Trail on Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, and the unique Bazaar Karat night market. The centrality of its location is a major win for this smartly designed hotel.

Straddling atop Komtar JBCC, which is one of the city’s major shopping hubs, this newly built 335-room hotel is part of a mixed-use development comprising retail and commercial office spaces with direct connection to the Persada Johor International Convention Centre via the covered Persada Link Bridge skywalk. Undoubtedly, the degree of convenience to be enjoyed when putting up at the Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre knows no bounds. A new way to stay Based on the reviews, almost all guests concur that Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre is a good place to stay because they found the guestrooms to be cosy, comfortable, welcoming, and thoughtfully laid out. The rooms’ windows let in as much natural light as possible while opening up to the amazing view of the city, including sunrise and sunset, particularly when guests stay on the upper floors, even more so from level 30. After check-in, guests are whisked up to their room using fast elevators. As they step into their rooms, guests will be quick to notice that their accommodations have been thoughtfully designed and refreshingly streamlined for absolute comfort and homely feel. Among the features that guests can look forward to when staying at the Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre are the 49-inch flat-screen television set, a standing shower and an electronic safe. In addition to the upto-date ergonomic furnishings, every room comes with multiple USB charging ports and outlets, conveniently integrated into the telephone panel and work desk that accommodates guests’ electronic gadgets. The bathroom mirrors are exceedingly large, with some even bordered by ring light to minimise shadow and ensure more uniformed illumination. Bathrobes are hung in the closet, same place where guests can easily locate the iron and ironing board. As for the bed, the pillows are fluffy and the mattress promises a restful slumber. Blurring the line between work and play In their reviews, quite a number of hotel guests shared that they received warm welcome from Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre’ staff ranging from the security and front desk personnel all the way to the housekeeping team. To the jaded hotel-hopping road warriors like the


members of Gaya Travel Magazine team, being looked after by approachable, committed and efficient hotel staff carries significant weight on our stay experience (on top of the quality of rooms, food and beverages, of course). Catering to corporate and leisure travellers alike, Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre brings consistent, intuitive service and a relaxed, interactive style to the Open Lobby concept. The integrated space offers a versatile environment where guests can eat, enjoy crafted cocktails, work, meet, socialise and have fun – attributes that not only resonate among seasoned travellers but also the next generation. Dedicated event planning services is provided by Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre too for guests to utilise the hotel’s spaces for business meetings, conferences, parties and launches. Four multifunctional meeting rooms outfitted with state-of-the-art audio-visual systems are available for guests to hold their functions smoothly. For social dining experience, Dine@EIGHT is an all-day dining outlet with a family-friendly open kitchen theatre concept serving a menu full of local fare, including selected continental flavours. Having breakfast here is a refreshing experience due to the variety of tasty choices. On top of that, the hotel’s Kids Stay & Eat Free programme – which allows children to dine for free – is definitely a boon and the deal breaker for guests who travel with children (those aged below 12). Other facilities at the guests’ disposal are the sky pool that overlook the city, steam rooms (to be used only after the threat of COVID-19 spread subsides) and a 24-hour fitness centre. Holiday Inn Johor Bahru and IHG Way of Clean As part of the IHG family, Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre complies with IHG’s Way of Clean industry-leading benchmarks through its partnership with forefront experts like Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey. Part of IHG’s Way of Clean is the new IHG Clean Promise, a set of strengthened science-led protocols and service measures. IHG’s global Clean Promise was launched in May 2021 to introduce heightened cleanliness standards to protect guests in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre adheres to rigorous standard operating procedures (SOPs) and health protocols. All rooms are sanitised prior to guests’ arrival, hand sanitisers are placed at public places, while the dining area has been configured to guarantee guests’ safety when dining. Such measures are already implemented in Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre to give guests the peace of mind and the hotel staff the necessary protection. Conclusion Holiday Inn Johor Bahru City Centre undoubtedly promises a pleasant stay due to its strategic location. Simply being situated above a shopping centre makes it easy for guests to grab more options for dining and do some shopping. The hotel’s scrumptious breakfast, attentive staff, well-appointed accommodations and working and reliable facilities are all the hallmarks that travellers to Johor Bahru should consider when looking for a place to stay in the city that is value-for-money. Visit https://www.holidayinn.com/johorbahru for more info.


Hotels & Resorts

A Glimpse of Hotel Seri Malaysia in The Country’s Northern Region Te x t b y S H A H I DA S A K E R I Images by MUHAMMAD HASIF MUHAMMAD JELANI

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Comfort doesn’t always have to equal expensive; and this translates well with Malaysia’s largest hotel chain: Hotel Seri Malaysia. They have been around for over 25 years, steadily serving guests with the ultimate Malaysian hospitality for so long, to the extent that I feel like the majority of well-travelled adult Malaysians might have stayed in one of the hotel’s evergrowing outlets at least once. After all, the greatest appeal of this chain, for me, is in its ability to provide comfortable stays even in Malaysia’s sleepiest towns. Sure, go to the major urban centres and you’ll be spoiled for choice when looking for accommodations. But the real challenge comes when you found yourself in places like Rompin, which might leave you scratching your head when looking for a decent place to stay. Enter Hotel Seri Malaysia with its affordable price tag in tow. Hence, when I found myself in Kepala Batas – a thriving township in the northern part of Seberang

Perai in Penang, home to many higher education institutions and eye-pleasing paddy fields, yet still lacks in terms of accommodation options – choosing to stay at Hotel Seri Malaysia Kepala Batas seems natural. It ticks all the must-haves: comfort, cleanliness, convenient location and efficient service. In fact, I heard that the hotel is favoured by travelling parents who need to send off their children to the institutions of learning located in the area. Business travellers, on the other hand, are well catered for through the selection of four event and meeting rooms.


Clockwise from Top: Rooms at Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar overlook a plant-filled courtyard, offering space for respite; Hotel Seri Malaysia Kepala Batas’ Delima Cafe serves gulai kawah seasonally; One of the bedrooms in the suite at Hotel Seri Malaysia Kepala Batas.

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The rooms mix space efficiency with much-appreciated creature comforts like plump pillows, a television, a tea and coffee facility, sufficient universal power sockets, clothes hangers, free Wi-Fi and curtain for privacy. There are several configurations here to suit guests’ needs, for example, twin beds, queen bed as well as a disability-accessible room; all decorated in calming muted colours with a splash of bright red to add vibrancy. By the way, if you have money to splurge, you might want to upgrade to the Penang Suite that happens to be the personal favourite of Malaysia’s 5th Prime Minister Tun Abdullah bin Ahmad Badawi when he is in town. From the suite, you can admire the arresting views of Mount Jerai on a clear day. The best part? The suite doesn’t come with a hefty price tag. Feeling hungry? For breakfast, guests get to enjoy freshly cooked continental fare served at Delima Café. On top of that, besides breakfast, do try out the hotel’s specialties like the bawal panas (deep-fried pomfret) set, nasi beriyani daging kuzi (beef biriyani rice) and soto ayam (broth with chicken strips), brilliantly prepared by the culinary team led by Chef Abdul Aziz who has over 10 years of experience under his belt.

Beyond the hotel, guests can easily access to many parts of the state since the Kepala Batas Bus Terminal sits right at the doorstep. If one desires a quick trip to the main island, Rapid Penang offers a reliable public transportation connecting the area to Penang Central in Butterworth. But closer to the base, Kepala Batas is still packed with hidden gems for all kinds of explorers. Budding archaeologists should make way to the Galeri Arkeologi Guar Kepah, a prehistoric site where a 5,000-year-old skeleton named ‘Penang Woman’’ was excavated. It is said that the site was once home to a settlement older than the Bujang Valley and Sungai Batu civilisations in Kedah.

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Clockwise from Top: Visitors enjoying the kampung-vibe at Kampung Agong; The superior queen room at Hotel Seri Malaysia Kepala Batas; Nasi Arab mandy served at Hotel Seri Malaysia Kepala Batas as part of its seasonal offering.

Alternatively, guests can also go on a hunt for well-preserved traditional Malay kampung houses, which are abundant in the area, especially along Jalan Permatang Rambai. The trip surely evokes nostalgia. But if you were looking for beautiful locations to fill your Instagram feed, Kampung Agong in Penaga will be right in your alley, where you can expect a giant Ubud-inspired bird nest, fun swings and even a replica of piano overlooking the expanse paddy field. I can’t help but imagining this could make a perfect backdrop for 1990s-inspired music videos. The entrance fee to the park is MYR8 per person. After a long day of exploration around the area, returning to your comfortable room at Hotel Seri Malaysia Kepala Batas would feel so right. Rates: Start at MYR208 per night per room. Tel: +6 04 575 6700 Web: www.serimalaysia.com.my/en/hotels/hsmkepalabatas


Clockwise from Top, Left: A visitor posing on a huge bird nest at Kampung Agong; The twin room at Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar; The queen room at Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar; Grilled beef with air asam, a Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar’s signature dish.

Up North: Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar Nestled behind an unsuspecting façade in the heart of Alor Setar, the hotel houses affordable and cosy rooms. Its décor, moreover, pays homage to the classic concept that harks back to the time when guests stay at the hotel for the first time. Come meal time, guests might notice that Hotel Seri Malaysia Alor Setar is popular among locals thanks to the delicious gastronomic offerings dished out by its Rasa-Rasa Cafe, which is headed by the Gold Medal World Championship 2019 recipient, Chef Rashidi Azhar Othman. Be sure to taste the café’s best sellers such as asam pedas tetel (tethered meat spicy sour dish), nasi beriyani (biriyani rice), nasi ulam (salad rice) and roast beef. On top of these, the location of the hotel is fantastic. Guests will be glad to know that it doesn’t take much time to drive anywhere from here, including to the town’s points of interest such as the State Museum, Alor Setar Tower, Kedah Paddy Museum and of course, the now-refurbished Pekan Rabu where one gets to shop for authentic local products. Rates: Start at MYR168 per night per room. Tel: +6 04 730 8737 Web: www.serimalaysia.com.my/en/hotels/hsmalorsetar *Guests can be rest assured that all of Hotel Seri Malaysia’s properties and outlets operate in accordance with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) and health protocols issued by the Malaysian National Security Council (MKN).

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Mural Art, Ipoh Old Town

Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar

Pulau Bangau, Teluk Intan

Profile for Chandi Media Group & Media MNC Nusantara

Gaya Travel Magazine 16.2  

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