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Malaysia Asia

Malaysia Asia

Malaysia travel blog and website on eco-tourism, nature, hotels and resorts, islands and beaches and also around Southeast Asia.
URL: http://blog.malaysia-asia.my/

Malaysia Asia





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2012-02-23 16:12:32

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  • Coconut Garden Beach Resort Review
    If you are visiting Maumere in Flores for scuba diving, work or leisure, you will find this Coconut Garden Beach Resort review rather interesting. Especially, if you are planning to look for a beautiful  place to stay at in Maumere. Flores, is also one of the up and coming tourism destinations of Indonesia, namely because of Komodo Island where you can see the real life Komodo Dragons in person. On a trip here in September 2016, I was given the opportunity to explore this fascinating island. Maumere is one of the lesser visited destinations in Flores, probably due to very little promotions being done, but for any adventure traveler or even scuba diver, Maumere is highly recommended as it is untouched, peaceful and beautiful. A view of the restaurant and some of the beach bungalowsReview of Coconut Garden Beach Resort in MaumereI have to be honest as I had no knowledge of this place until I visited here. Arriving at the Maumere Airport, everything looked undeveloped and my group was picked up and sent to the Coconut Garden Beach Resort here. For a local run resort, I was impressed the minute I stepped out of the bus. Coconut trees dominated the resort landscape and the strange mushroom looking villa units were very eco-designer styled. The main reception area is in the only restaurant which serves as your common area.  Staff are locals from Maumere and very hospitable, which was a great start to staying here. There were about 8 of us and each of us got our own private bungalow. Coconut Garden resort also sits on a private land with its own private beachfront. Everything here is picture perfect as you can see from the photos, lush island landscapes, bamboo bungalows, friendly staff and picturesque moments waiting to be captured. It is also said that this eco-friendly resort caters to a number of honeymooners seeking the ultimate escape to nowhere. One of the beach bungalows at the resort in MaumereBeach Bungalows at Coconut Garden ResortBecause there are only 8 bungalows, you are getting the best of Indonesian hospitality here. The owners took no slack in creating some of the finest beach bungalows in the east of Indonesia. Never have I seen such craftsmanship in a finished resort product. Every detail was carefully looked into, ensuring that guests get the ultimate experience while staying here. As I walked into my Sunset Bungalow, my eyes immediately looked around to see the small fittings that made a difference.A full view of the mosquito net covered queen sized bedThe open concept beach bungalow allows guests to feel free, with no walls in the interior of the unit except for a queen sized beds with traditional mosquito nets and comfy pillows invite guests to just jump in. The bathroom area is a separate outdoor part that has a eight foot wooden fence surrounding the place. Natural beach sand is used at the flooring with stepping stones as your walkway. The outdoor bathroom at the bungalowShower area which is outdoors and cleverly constructedThe toilet area which is quite interestingThe bathroom is connected by a sliding glass doors to the main bungalow, making this a very natural experience for anyone staying here. Actually, I quite liked how the planned the bungalow layout. Each bungalow is also air-conditioned while the hexagon glass walls have rustic matching curtains for privacy. At the entrance of the bungalow, you find a hammock to just laze in all day, while there is also a seating area for you to have your drink while watching the Maumere sunset. A full view of the sunset bungalow at the resort with coconut trees in the backgroundAround Coconut Beach Garden ResortThe peaceful and natural surroundings here are incredibly beautiful. In the mornings, I was woken up by the soothing bird chirping which is a common thing at the resort. The private beach has a couple of gazebos where you can just laze with cocktail in hand and gazing at the scenery. Or you have have the local masseur give you a local and traditional massage. The beach gazebo at the resortTraditional massage can also be done in your bungalow. Other activities include kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, fishing, boat trips or anything that fancies you. But, do not hope for jet skiing, sky diving or bungy jumping. You must remember, this is in the middle of nowhere. For a more cultural experience, the resort can arrange for you to learn 'Ikat Weaving' which is a traditional Maumere way of weaving leaves. If not, you can rent a motorbike and self explore Maumere. The one and only restaurant which serves as a reception areaFor the fitness lovers, they have an amazing outdoor beach gym, which is also in a similar bungalow design. The gym comes complete with international standard equipment. There is no private pool or swimming pool here as an entire sea awaits you. The restaurant here must be highlighted as they only serve from farm to kitchen organic food. Yes, everything here is sourced locally from the various farmers. Fish is bought directly from the local fishermen and livestock from the farmers. The outcome, simply delicious and healthy. Seafood and rice, done organic and Maumere styleAs for drinks, fear not as alcohol is served here. You can get local Indonesian beer and also imported beer, wine and spirits. Beer is sold by the bottles too. For special occasions, a seafood barbecue can be arranged by the resort. Room service is not available, but can be arranged. As for the food choices, you can choose from local Indonesian to International fusion styled food. One of the recommendations to try is the fried banana fritters and the calamari, as snacks or starters. The beautiful Maumere beach at the resortBeyond Coconut Garden Beach ResortFor adventures, you can book a trip to Mount Kelimutu to see the amazing tri-color lakes and also explore the Kelimutu National Park. If you are religious, do ask the resort to plan a visit to the Bukit Nilo to see the huge statue of Mother Mary perched on top of the hill here. There is also an old wooden church which is said to be over a hundred years old and still in its natural form. These places are all located in the Sikka Regency, where Maumere is the capital here. Scuba diving in Maumere is also one of the growing activities as there has been some promotions done in recent years. Maumere is known to be one of the most diverse spots on earth, just after Raja Ampat, in terms of diving. A couple of the Sunset Bungalows that face the Maumere seaThere is a good balance of marine life here with opportunities to spot many types of rays, large and small, healthy amount of reef fish and a wide variety of nudibranch. If you are lucky, you can even spot pilot whales, dolphins or whale sharks on route to your dive sites. Honestly, I am hoping that in 2018, my good friend Pinneng from Kupang will arrange a diving experience in Maumere one day, so I can complete my dive articles for this part of East Indonesia. Let us see if this happens. For additional information around here, you can read my article on things to do in Flores as it narrows down that are the main attractions here. The 'Wedding Gazebo' on the beach at the resortRealistic ConclusionLet us be honest here - why go to Bali when you can visit somewhere totally exotic and yet have the luxuries of beach side resorts plus exploring a place where not many people have visited. I would easily recommend visiting Maumere to anyone who wants something different. For honeymooners or those wanting a romantic getaway minus the crowds, the resort offers some pretty good wedding or romantic packages on their website. They even have a 'Retie the Knot' package. Just take a look at the peaceful and quiet beach hereIf you are interested, you can book a bungalow at Coconut Garden Beach Resort as there are some great rates available online for singles or couples. Or you can contact the resort directly. On a side note, they also have a dorm here that caters to backpackers or those on a budget. The location of the resort is about 15-20 minutes from the Maumere Airport and transport is available when you book directly from the resort. The drive there is quite an eye opener for first timers too, so do keep a look out your window. This trip was made possible with the team from Skyscanner as we explored various places from Bali to Flores in East Nusa Tenggara. I never thought I would have the opportunity exploring the east side of Flores, as it has always been on my bucket list.  I hope this review of the Coconut Garden Beach Resort comes in handy for anyone planning to visit this part of Flores. And if you have any questions, please do ask them below in the comment form.
    Saturday 11th of November 2017 01:06:00 PM
  • IST Malaysia Scuba Diving Products
    With 40 years of production experience, IST Malaysia scuba diving products are now available as a choice of reliable equipment for all divers out there. The brand which originates from Taiwan also has a strong presence in over 200 countries around the world, and now available here in Malaysia.IST Malaysia provides brands such as IST Proline, IST Sports and Dolphin Tech which offers consumers a choice of latest technology in scuba diving. Some ma say this is a new player in the scuba diving industry, but in fact, they are one of the seasoned international brands.Recently launched in October 2017, IST Malaysia officially launched it's Malaysian office and also its online dive shop where consumers can buy directly with massive discounts being offered. And speaking of discounts, the brand is offering a 35% discount for all IST scuba diving products till 31st December 2017.A photo I took while diving at Raja Ampat in October 2017IST MalaysiaA little history about IST, a company founded in Taiwan in 1976 producing masks, snorkels and fins which has a 41 year history. Over the years, the company ventured in more sport diving products and eventually catered from head to toe in diving equipment.Not only for casual divers, IST also produces other equipment such as freediving, technical diving and also commercial diving with a vast range of products. The company has a simple and strict mission statement which is to produce safe, reliable, high quality products, and at very affordable prices.This mission statement is accepted well around the world over and now IST Sports is one of the top scuba diving brands around the world. Products include general diving equipment, bags, BCD sets, gloves, gauges, torches, hard gear parts and many other related items. Selection of Rash Guards from IST MalaysiaIST Scuba Diving Products in MalaysiaWith so many scuba diving products out in the market nowadays, divers have too many choices. However, for those with a budget and who still want quality, IST diving products are one to consider. For those who dive regularly, they usually would want to have their own equipment. Just like me, I dive quite regularly and have been using my own dive equipment, and the main reason is purely for safety. Divers would know about the general dive center rental equipment, and how some of them are worn or not well kept. As many divers choose to have their own dive equipment, I will list down some of the popular items required by divers. IST Pro Ear MaskDiving Mask - This is probably the most personal dive equipment anyone must have. A mask provides you clarity underwater, and a good mask will not give you problems when you are diving. As I use glasses, I choose a prescription mask with power and the mask is comfortable. IST Malaysia has a new technology diving mask which is a ProEar Mask that assists divers with equalization problems. You can check out the Pro Ear Mask by IST. Wet Suits and Rash Guards - These are also sought after by most divers, as a wet suit or rash guard is quite personal. The best is to obtain your own personal sized that fits you and you are comfortable while diving. You can check out some of the interesting wet suits and rash guards from IST Malaysia. Fins - Probably the least owned dive equipment, due to availability from most dive centers. However, more divers are getting their own fins nowadays, especially for personal diving comfort and probably for overall matching. Dive Combo Sets - These are a combination of mask, snorkel and fins for those who want a good deal in getting the set. They are usually matching colors and for the dive fashionistas, these provide the perfect finishing. Other Scuba Diving Equipment - IST Malaysia offers a very wide range of scuba diving equipment from head to tow and also diving accessories. You can get BCD's, regulators, parts and many other items. Check the IST Malaysia diving catalog for the equipment list and prices. IST Malaysia VideoBelow is a video on IST Malaysia, highlighting the brand and its interesting scuba diving products. The video also shows the launching of IST Malaysia in October 2017. IST Malaysia InformationMegan Avenue 1,Unit B7-5,189 Jalan Tun Razak,50400 Kuala Lumpur.Tel: +603 2164 3311Website: http://istmalaysia.my/Online Shop: https://www.keluar.my/You can also contact IST Malaysia via their social media platforms as listed below;IST Malaysia FacebookIST Malaysia InstagramIST Malaysia is having a special sale till 31st of December 2017 on their websiteScuba divers out there, especially if you are a new scuba diver, IST Sport diving equipment is one of the recommended products which are affordable. Some of the equipment sold are world class and quite unique, and you can check out the 2018 IST dive equipment from their main website. Again, IST Malaysia is offering a 35% discount for all their scuba diving equipment if you shop online and this offer ends on the 31st December 2017. When it comes to diving, consumers have many choices and IST Malaysia scuba diving products are one of the new players in Malaysia. 
    Wednesday 8th of November 2017 10:48:00 AM
  • Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia
    One of the countries largest anime events called Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia will take place in December at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center or KLCC. The dates are from 16-17 December and will see over 50,000 people attending this event. The Comic Fiesta 2017 in Malaysia has also been running for many years, and has attracted a lot of anime, manga and comic fans from all over the country and region. This event is also touted as the largest comic and pop culture market to date.Malaysia Comic Fiesta 2017One of the halls at the Comic Fiesta 2016 MalaysiaThis unique event not only showcases comics as the title says, but there are many other sub-genres available at the entire event. Most of the vendors there will be selling fan merchandise from popular comics, anime and manga characters. Retail business will also be at its best as collectors and fans wait for this one massive event to get their desired items. In total, there would be over 300 vendors at the Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia.At the event, there are dedicated areas for different genres, and divided into halls. Consumer merchandise is allocated in one hall where the suppliers and importers will have their large booths selling items.Cosplayers form Malaysia at the Comic FiestaYou can find replica items from your favourite characters, costumes, accessories, stickers and many other items from the vendors here.At the last Comic Fiesta 2016, there was one area dedicated to gaming, and they had live game playing on a super huge screen where spectators could watch. Around that area, game developers and distributors are seen at their booths.As for food, usually there is a special area dedicated to food and beverage. There is also a eating area with tables and chairs for visitors to sit and relax. Usually, people who attend this event will spend the entire day here.Earthbound Papas concert and show at Comic Fiesta 2017Live Event at Comic Fiesta 2017Great news for Final Fantasy fans as legendary Final Fantasy Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu will be there with Earthbound Papas performing. This will take place at the main stage area and special tickets are required to be purchases for this showcase.Tickets are in three classes which are Novice RM50, Expert RM100 and Master RM150. Tickets are limited too so get them as soon as possible if you are a massive Final Fantasy fan.Cosplayers in action at Comic Fiesta MalaysiaCosplay at Comic Fiesta 2017One of the main highlights at this even where you will see the best of Malaysian Cosplay at one event. This is quite unique as fans dress up all the way, and showcase themselves all over the event.From the main entrance all the way into the event, you will definitively see cosplayers in full action. Guys, girls and even kids take advantage of this event to dress up as characters.Collectible Card Games (CCG) at Comic Fiesta 2017Another popular genre are the collectible card games (CCG) or trading card games (TCG) that are featured in one special area. Last year, Magic The Gathering or MTG took the opportunity to launch MTG Commander 2016 Edition at the event with a huge turnout of fans.There are also many other CCG and TCG available, especially new ones which have been introduced into the market. They also see Comic Fiesta as one of the excellent platforms to gain popularity and branding fro their card games.Some vendors are also selling cards games which are new in box. Alternatively, you can also talk to them to pre-order certain up and coming games.Probably the largest single bazaar in Malaysia, the Comic Fiesta BazaarComic Fiesta 2017 BazaarProbably the largest single pop culture bazaar in Malaysia, there will be over 200 bazaar vendors that will be in a special dedicated area for this. You will find all kinds of everything related to comics, anime, manga and pop culture.This bazaar is open to vendors from the public who sell their own creations, costumes, accessories and collectibles. Prepare to spend a couple of hours at this bazaar if you are a huge fan.Early bird tickets for this years Comic Fiesta 2017 in MalaysiaComic Fiesta 2017 TicketsThe tickets for Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia are available online for the early bird tickets which are RM60.00 for two days. What is so special about getting the early bird tickets? If I were you, I would get them because you will be entitled to;1. Early Access to the event (30 minutes earlier than the general ticket holders)2. Shorter queue for entering the event hallsThis means, early bird ticket holders are like hot seat passengers where they get priority access to the event. And no, this does not mean you are getting a back stage pass, only the priority access.The normal priced tickets are RM30 for one day and RM60 for two days.Special Magic Cube Ticket for Comic Fiesta 2017This is a special ticket where it includes exclusive limited edition items with your ticket. Items include a special mystic magic mug, Touch 'n Go card and a special limited edition pin. This is recommended for the serious collectors and fans.Inside the event, lots of vendors selling all sorts of thingsWhere to buy early bird tickets for Comic Fiesta 2017?There are selected retail outlets that are selling the Comic Fiesta 2017 early bird tickets, and you can also get them from the selected road shows listed further below.For foreigners, there is a dedicated page where you can pre-order the tickets and pay via PayPal. Go to this link for foreigner tickets for Comic Fiesta 2016. If you are non-Malaysian, you need to purchase this.Tickets Counters On Event DayYou can purchase these tickets on the event day at the entrance to Comic Fiesta. However, you should not that the ticket counters only open at 10.00 AM, after the early bird queue is cleared. And entry to the event is also after the early bird queue.Tickets are also in the form of wristbands, therefore please do not lose them or it will be difficult to get back in after you exit.Some of the vendors at the recent Comic Fiesta in MalaysiaChildren Below 12 Years OldEntrance is free for children below 12 years old, but they must be accompanied by a parent or adult. This means, the parent or adult must purchase a ticket in order to bring the child in.Remember, if you are bringing your child or children, the place can get really crowded. Please keep an eye on your kids and take regular breaks at the F&B area or other open areas. Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia RoadshowThe organisers have also created a series of road shows for the event which will take place at three main locations around the Klang Valley and Melaka. The places and information are;MGACEEvolve Concept Mall21 & 22 October (Concluded)RAGEElements Mall, Melaka28-29 October 2017 (Concluded)Publika Comic Play 2017Publika Shopping Gallery18-19 November 2017Comic Fiesta 2016 VideoBelow is a video of last years Comic Fiesta 2016 taken by me, and showcasing an overall view of the event. Last years event was held at the Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur and in a few different halls.If you have never been to this event, just take a look at the video and you will know what to expect at the Malaysian Comic Fiesta 2017. It shows cosplayers, booths, events and overall what you can expect here.Visitors coming from out of Malaysia for Comic Fiesta 2017If you are from out of Malaysia and planning to travel to Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia, I strongly recommend you make your accommodation bookings fast. This is because during the year end, Kuala Lumpur tends to be busy and hotels can be fully booked.I recommend also trying AirBnB for lodging if you cannot find any hotels. For transport, there is the main LRT train line that stops at KLCC and you can walk about five minutes to the convention center. If you want convenience, I recommend you try some of the hotels located around the KLCC area.Those wanting the four and five star hotels, you can try booking Impiana KLCC Hotel as this is located just across the main road from the convention center. Alternatively, there is the Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur which is about five minutes walking  distance to the event.Those who want to stay at a luxury hotel, you can try the Mandarin Oriental Hotel or even the new Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur as they are both just next to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.For those who need other transport, you can take private car services like UBER and GRAB, which is quite easy and economical to use. There are many cars running these services in the city area and are reliable and cheap.A local cosplayer at Comic FiestaIf you have been a huge comic, anime or manga fan, this is the one event that is highly recommended to attend or visit. Comic Fiesta 2017 Malaysia just gets better year after year and because of events like this, more people are finally getting into this genre.If you have any questions, please contact the organisers at their Comic Fiesta 2017 Facebook Page or through their website. You can even leave them in the comment form below and hopefully someone will help answer it. 
    Saturday 4th of November 2017 07:20:00 AM
  • Qatar Airways Doha to Penang Flights Launched
    Incredible airline news as Qatar Airways is starting its Doha to Penang direct flights from 2018. This comes as a shock to many states in Malaysia on the direct middle east flight to the Pearl of the Orient. The three times weekly direct flight will start on 8th February 2018, and will be a long haul flight on Qatar Airways. The aircraft used will be the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which will seat approximately 254 passengers and take 8.5 hours one way.Penang is one of the must-visit destinations in Malaysia, rich with culture, food and heritageQatar Airways Doha to Penang Flights Penang has long been one of the must-visit destinations of Malaysia for many decades, and in the past few years, Penang Island has made international travel headlines where Lonely Planet, CNN Travel and other international publications have named Penang as one of the top cities in the world to visit. The Pearl of the Orient as it is also know, has impressed many high yield tourist from the west for many years. Penang also comes with over 200 years of solid history, where the British first landed here in 1786, making the island the first spot for the British colonial era. From that, the island has seen a rich and diverse melting pot of races that have thrived over the centuries. George Town is the capital of Penang and is also home to one of two UNESCO World Heritage Cities in Malaysia. The other being Melaka.Penang's very unique and interesting shops in George TownWhy Penang is a popular places is also due to the diverse combination of food, culture and history. Penang food is world renown and serves some of the best local Malaysian hawker fare. Ask any Malaysia about Penang hawker food and you will get a thumbs up. With news of Qatar Airways flying directly into Penang from Doha, this will surely increase the tourism on the island. As for facilities, the island has been ready for years and you can find luxurious hotels, resorts, boutique accommodations and many guesthouses.Qatar Airways will begin direct flights from Doha to Penang in Feb 2018Qatar Airways Doha Penang Flight InformationDoha to Penang Inaugural Flight will take off on Feb 6, 2018Flight QR850 will land in Penang at 2.30 pm local time.Penang to Doha Inaugural Flight will leave at 8.30 pm on Feb 6, 2018Flight QR851 will arrive at 11.20 pm Qatar local time.3 flights weekly will be on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.Penang is also home to the world's smallest national park which is easily visited in just half a day. Temples of all sorts away the cultural tourist while exploring the UNESCO core heritage zone in George Town by foot is an adventure waiting to b experienced.For anyone heading to Penang for the first time, you may experience a culture shock, but a good one. And here is a list of free things to do in Penang while you are here. The island is not very big, therefore most of the things can be done around George Town area.Till Qatar Airways launches its direct flights to Penang this February 2018, the island is ever ready to receive guest from anywhere in the world. This also means that Penangites can soon visit the Middle East and other countries in Europe with the Penang to Doha direct flights from Qatar Airways. 
    Wednesday 1st of November 2017 11:15:00 AM
  • Visit Malaysia Year 2020
    In the recent Malaysia Budget 2018 announcement on 27th October, the prime minister had officially mentioned that Visit Malaysia Year 2020 was approved and on track for the tourism development of the country. With the Budget 2018 news, an infrastructure development fund was allocated with 1 Billion Ringgit Malaysia (US$235 Billion) to prepare for Visit Malaysia Year 2020. This was a huge amount of money being invested into the tourism sector of Malaysia.Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020)For the vision of Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020), the tourism promotions and development fund of RM500 Million (US$117 Million) was allocated under the Budget 2018. This brings good news to industry players all over the country.Also in the works was the expansion of the regional eVisa hub to make entry and exit smoother for visitors to Malaysia. Currently, the eVisa program is available online where an application platform enables foreign nationals to apply for an electronic visa to enter Malaysia at the comfort of your convenience.Some of the spectacular sunsets seen around Malaysia. This one taken at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah BorneoFor the hoteliers news, tax incentives for new 4 & 5 star hotel investments have been extended by 2 years. And for tourism industry players, the inclusion of income tax exemption is now extended to 31 December 2020. As this news is still fresh off the press, there are no other guidelines available on the Visit Malaysia Year 2020. The numbers should be released probably in 2018. In 2017, the target set by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia for visitors to Malaysia in 2017 is 31 Million visitors with tourist receipts of RM114 Billion (US$26.8 Billion). In 2016, Malaysia achieved 26.8 Million visitors with a total of RM82.1 Billion (US$19.1 Billion) in receipts.National Parks not only feature rainforest but also incredible sea stacks like this in Bako, SarawakNew Tourism Products For MalaysiaIn 2018, we can see quite a number of new tourism products for Malaysia being launched. One of the most talked about is the 20th Century Fox World Theme Park in Genting, which is the first of its kind in the world. This alone will easily contribute to millions of visitors when it opens its doors in early 2018. Another massive tourism project is also the Desaru Coast project which will open in 2018 in the south east of Johor. At this integrated project, the Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark will be one of the highlights here. It is touted to be one of the most modern and largest water parks in the region. Other contributing factors at Desaru Coast are four world class hotels and resorts that are opening, 2 world class golf courses and a lifestyle and entertainment area called Desaru Coast Riverside. Other massive tourism projects include a Jurassic World, Sea World, Ubisoft Theme Park and Langkawi Eco Theme Park which are all in the planning and scheduled to open by 2020. However, nothing solid has come up as these are just news.There is so much natural rainforest and national parks all over MalaysiaNatural Tourism Resources in MalaysiaWhile Malaysia is rich with natural tourism sources, I truly hope that the tourism ministry will re-look into promoting nature, outdoors and adventure tourism as there are so many national parks in Malaysia, both Peninsular and also in Sabah and Sarawak. I understand that a majority of tourist want popular tourism spots like the Petronas Twin Towers, Putrajaya, Shopping, Batu Caves and so on, but these are the short stay tourist which only provide numbers.Malaysia was once known as a nature, adventure and eco tourism destination as we have so much natural resources and tourism spots. Our national parks are some of the best in the world and also one of the oldest in the world. These natural tourism places provide adventure, trekking, hiking, climbing, wildlife watching and even bird watching tourism, which can contribute well to the receipts, if managed and promoted well. Even for scuba diving tourism, we have some of the best diving spots in the region, and Sipadan Island is one of the top three dive sites in the world. When wrongly promoted, agents will mass-sell beautiful destination to fast turn around tourist, and this results in turning away the quality longer staying tourist. Trust me, I have seen this happen at some of the islands in Malaysia.Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, one of the most popular commercial tourism spots in MalaysiaCommercial Tourism Places in MalaysiaWhile cross border tourism is the biggest contributor to the tourism arrivals in Malaysia, the rest of the percentage goes to the commercial man made tourism products. These are usually the shopping malls, theme parks, structures and so on. As these places are fully tapped by most travel agents, some of the other agents could spend focus on other places of interest. And yes, the not so commercial places are lacking in infrastructure and so on. But perhaps the new tourism fund from the Budget 2018 will be allocated to this?River Cruises are one of the natural Eco Tourism products that can be further promotedNon-Commercial tourism Places in MalaysiaOn a personal note, I would like to see the ministry of tourism pay additional attention to nature, wildlife, outdoors, trekking, hiking and other non-commercialized tourism products. Even tough they do not generate massive tourism numbers, it would provide an alternate to the genuine tourist who want to see the real Malaysia. As an active travel writer since 2008, I have personally visited and seen many interesting places that would be appealing towards tourist who want to experience something different. However, speaking to the relevant tourism boards, there are always too many red tape issues in developing some of these interesting places. I have also been actively scuba diving and bird watching around Malaysia, and see this as one of the potential tourism products that could put Malaysia on the world tourism map. Again, niche genres like bird watching and scuba diving need more publicity and awareness and also funding to improve the infrastructure of these places. Bird Watching is one of the high yield tourism products that can be developedMore To Come...Since the new of this just came out in late October 2017, there will be more to come from me about Visit Malaysia 2020. There is at least two full years to go before the VMY2020 campaign takes off, and 2019 will be the crucial year for the marketing and promotions. The article here is written by me with my own personal views while they may differ from others. As a tourism and travel writer over the last 10 years, I have worked hand in hand with Tourism Malaysia, Sabah Tourism Board, Sarawak Tourism Board and even Tourism Selangor in the early years too. Currently, Tourism Malaysia Familiarization trips or Media Fam are not doing the correct job due to non-experience personnel organising them. If you keep calling your friends or bloggers who have no experience or ethics, we will never grow our online or digital industry in promoting Malaysia. For now, this is just the start of VMY2020 and I will be back with updates on Visit Malaysia Year 2020 whenever I get more information. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. 
    Tuesday 31st of October 2017 09:45:00 AM
  • Desaru Coast
    One of the much talked about projects for 2018 is no other than the Desaru Coast project, which is a massive premium integrated destination resort and possibly a new tourism destination for Malaysia. Currently, there are massive projects ongoing where a series of world class hotels and resorts are being built and complimented with golf courses, a massive conference center, a water park, upscale homes and a unique retail village. Desaru Coast also boasts of 3,900 acres of prime land and a whopping 17 kilometers of unspoiled beachfront, which covers the southeast part of the state of Johor, Malaysia. This alone will stir up interest for travelers, local and international who want something different in Malaysia.The Desaru Coast Adventure Water ParkDesaru Coast Hotels and ResortsWith such a massive integrated project, a number of international hotels and resorts have already started construction here at Desaru Coast. The hotel and resort names would speak for themselves as they are all five star brands.Please note there are no actual photos available and therefore what you see below are all artist impressions for now. As soon as I can get actual photos, I will do my best to update it here.Inside the Westin Desaru CoastThe Westin Desaru Coast ResortA 5-Star beachfront property with a total of 275 rooms and operated by Marriott International. The resort comes with a conference center adjoined to the resort and a world class spa that has been highly recommended by many. If you are a Starwood Proffered Guest member, this is your next destination.View of the South China Sea from the Anantara Resort Desaru CoastAnantara Desaru Coast Resort and VillasA world class name known to the luxury travelers, the Anantara Desaru will be fully managed under the Anantara Hotels and Resorts brand. A total of 123 luxurious units are offered for guests and the Anantara Spa fit for a king and queen will be one of the highlights here. Strategically located in the main hub of Desaru Coast, the luxurious resort is located near the Desaru Coast Riverside and the two world class golf courses.Aman Resort and Villas Desaru CoastThis is going to be the only 6-Star Resort in Desaru, offering a total of 46 luxury club suites and 48 residential villas facing the South China Sea. The luxurious resort will be managed by world famous Amanresorts, so you can expect world class luxury service here.Artist impression of the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru CoastHard Rock Hotel Desaru CoastAnother branch of the Hard Rock family is also set to open at Desaru Coast, bring more credential towards this new tourism and lifestyle project. The Hard Rock Hotel Desaru will offer 365 rooms, a cafe and everything Hard Rock, and look out for the unique Rock Spa. This property will also be located next to the world class Desaru Coast Water Park.Desaru Coast Entertainment PlacesDesaru Coast Riverside, an artist impression of what it will look likeDesaru Coast RiversideThis is the much talked about entertainment project which sees a 23 acre waterfront village catering to entertainment and lifestyle. You can expect quality retails shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and other entertainment outlets in one place. Not much has been announced on who are the outlets opening here, but we expect top brands and names as tenants here.The adventure water park at Desaru CoastDesaru Coast Adventure WaterparkThe much awaited and talked about latest water park in Malaysia is the Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark. This is also touted to be one of the world?s biggest water parks, which features 17 different water slide rides. Not only that, you can expect the largest wave pool in Southeast Asia and experience the first water roller coaster in Southeast Asia. Convinced? I am quite excited about this new water park in Johor.Desaru Coast Convention and Conference Center artist impressionDesaru Coast Conference CentreTargeting the MICE and business travelers, the Desaru Coast Conference Center (DCCC) will be the newest player in this part of the country. A banquet area and exhibition space will cater up to 1,000 participants, which is complemented with meeting and breakout rooms, VIP lounges, pre-function area and a courtyard. This will easily cater to corporate functions, exhibitions, meetings and entertainment events.Gold Courses at Desaru CoastFor golfers, there is excellent news as there will be two world class golf courses available at Desaru Coast and the first in Asia Golf Academy by Ernie Els.The Ocean Golf Course at Desaru CoastThe Els Club Desaru Coast - Ocean Course This ocean golf course is designed by 4-time Major Champion, Ernie Els and is a 27 hole golf course here at Desaru Coast. Probably the is currently most talked about golf course in Malaysia, and many golfers can't wait to give this world class golf course a try.The Valley Course at Desaru CoastThe Els Club Desaru Coast - Valley Course Designed by world famous Vijay Singh and jointly developed with Ernie Els, The Valley Course at Desaru Coast is an 18-hole golf course with breath taking scenery. This 7,200 yard Par 72 course also welcomes any level of golfers. The Els Performance Golf Academy This is the first Gold Academy of its kind in Asia which is an EPGA Par 3 Academy Course suitable for the entire family. The Els Club Performance Golf Academy is a state-of-the-art center of excellence that many seasoned or young golfers are looking forward to visiting this place.A map showing where the golf courses are located in Desaru CoastHow To Go To Desaru CoastDriving - The most easiest way is to self drive here, where you can take the north-south express way and then connect to the Senai-Desaru Expressway. In total, you will drive about five hours. But for those going for a vacation, do that ritual and make a stop in Melaka or Johor Baharu. From Singapore, it will only take you a 90 minute drive from the causeway which is relatively easy. Flying - For those who prefer to fly, you can do so by taking a direct flight to the Senai Airport in Johor. From there, you need to take a taxi, hire a private driver (Uber/Grab) or simply rent a car. From Senai Airport to Desaru, it will take you around 45-50 minutes. A flight from Kuala Lumpur to Senai will take you around 45 minutes too.Map showing where the hotels and attractions in Desaru CoastFerry - Those in Singapore who want to take the ferry, you can do so from the Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor Ferry Terminal. It will take you around 30 minutes boat ride and then you need to rent a car or private driver/taxi to Desaru which takes another 30 minutes. Desaru Coast will be the most talked about place in 2018 as the massive project has been discussed for years. Also in 2018, some of the hotels and entertainment places here will be opened to the public.For more information, you can visit the Desaru Coast official website and you can contact them directly for further questions.Currently, there is still construction ongoing and one of the golf course has already been opened. In early 2018, the Desaru Coast Adventure Water Park will be opened and attracting many people. On when the full project of Desaru Coast will be opened, it is speculated to be in 2019.
    Saturday 28th of October 2017 12:02:00 PM
  • Matta Fair 2018
    The Matta Fair 2018 will be providing more options for travelers and vacation seekers much more promotions and deals. Malaysia's largest travel fair is a annual event that sees over 100,000 visitors held during a weekend in Kuala Lumpur. For the three days, you will see thousands of visitors visiting the Matta Fair 2018 with one purpose - travel. At the fair, you can find all kinds of travel deals, promotions and information for your next vacation. With the rise of Airbnb and budget airline promotions, consumers are still heading to the Matta Fair, all in the name of finding the best deal they can. By in most cases, getting information from the tourism boards here.Entrance to the International Hall 2 at Matta FairWhen is Matta Fair 2018?Matta Fair 2018 will take place in the months of March and September. This is where local and international consumers will make a lot of travel bookings and buy travel packages.Usually the travel fair will be held on a weekend, which is from Friday till Sunday. As you may already know, over 100,000 visitors will visit the largest travel fair in Malaysia and it is highly recommended you visit on the first day.The link way booths at Matta Fair in Kuala LumpurMarch Matta Fair 2018 The first fair will focus on the mid year school holidays in Malaysia, and also the other festive holidays. This is when consumers will go for a vacation versus going at the year end when everyone is travelling.Usually, tour package prices at the March Matta Fair 2018 will be slashed to offer attractive promotions to destinations that are trending. In many cases, local tourism is also being looked at by the consumers. This means, domestic travel packages are being sought after by the consumers.Also depending on the current economy of the country, there will be consumers who will also opt for regional travels. Meaning destinations like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Macau and Indonesia will be the first choices.For long haul travel to far destinations, this is quite subjective as many prefer to do long haul at the end of the year when they have much more time. Also, most companies would issue out salary bonuses at the end of the year, which is perfect for that week long vacation with the family.Visitors at the Malaysia Matta FairSeptember Matta Fair 2018The second fair is the September Matta Fair 2018 which focuses mainly on the year end holidays due to the extra long school holidays. Also to consider are the many festive holidays like Christmas, New Year and even Chinese New Year on the following year.It is this time of the year when many people also start to take their long leave from work or even clear up their outstanding leave days. As far back as I can remember, the year end is the ultimate time for vacations or holidays with family and loved ones.But in the last ten years or so, this mentality has shifted a little, where many younger generation consumers would travel anytime, versus waiting for the year end. One of the main reasons is that they do not want to be like the typical salary worker.Visitors at Matta Fair making a bookingWho Visits The Matta Fair?There are generally two groups of people that visit the Matta Fair. The main group is the general consumer market while the other group are the travel industry people. In total, you will expect to see at least over 100,000 people in a span of three days during the travel fair. Most consumers will wait for the event to either make their purchases or to get more information about destinations they want to visit. General Consumers at Matta FairThese are the consumers who are looking for travel promotions and discounts on packages. Especially when they plan to travel in a group. Over the year, I have noticed that the consumers who attend the Matta Fair are usually those from out of the city area. These are the consumers who have not fully gone digital, therefore there is still a small market targeting them .The savvy ones who attend the Matta Fair are usually those shopping for information, especially when there are many tourism boards set up to promote their destinations. Travel Industry People at Matta FairThese are those who are in the travel industry, local and international. You will see that most of the travel companies participating at the Matta Fair 2018, as it is a ritual to be there. It is also the best time to promote your special packages to the consumers. However, over the years, there has been very stiff competition among the industry people. Vendors from the Sarawak Tourism Board at the travel fairTourism Boards at Matta FairThere will always be many tourism boards participating at the travel fair. Their job is to provide as much information as possible to consumers, and not to sell any travel packages. For those who want to buy travel packages, then need to visit the travel agents to do so. And this is where the best deal or promotion wins. One of the very popular booths is no other than the Japan Tourism booth at Matta Fair. However, there are pros and cons to this and at the end of the day, the tourism boards are in a win-win situation, and here is why.One of the cruise company promotions at the Matta FairConsumers will visit the tourism board booths to get all kinds of information. Promotional brochures and flyers are provided where the consumer can take what then want. At times, the tourism board will collect email information in exchange for gifts. The savvy consumers will visit the fair to obtain information on the various places, and then visit some of the travel agents to get a quotation on prices. In many cases, the consumer will do comparison with online packages, flight tickets and even accommodations. Previous years saw many consumers just purchasing the ground packages only due to the cheap airline tickets being offered by various budget and full serviced airlines. AirBnB, one of the fastest growing online players in MalaysiaPredictions for Matta Fair 2018With the global rise of Airbnb, online travel agents (OTA's), cheap budget airline tickets and companies like Grab and Uber, consumers have gotten smarter in the last two to three years. In general, those travelers from the age of 20-40+ are more tech savvy compared to five years ago. Smartphones have helped create a new breed of travelers around the world.And here in Malaysia, many from that age group are also considered savvy travelers. Technology keeps improving and this is one of the issues faced by conventional travel agents. Visitor numbers may be high at Matta Fair, but the buying power will definitely decrease. This is thanks to the online players or Airbnb, AirAsia and so on.Some of the attractive Matta Fair travel promotionsHonestly, if you plan to go to Bangkok, will you wait for the Matta Fair or would you just start browsing the web for cheap flights and accommodations? You know the answer. Somehow, the travel packages sold during the fair are mostly long haul, especially to Europe, America, Africa and also local and international Cruise Packages.Local domestic packages are still being sold and the buyers are usually the consumers who have not embraced technology yet.Some Sabah Travel Package PromotionsIt is only a matter of time before this happens. Right now, Airbnb is one of the strongest competition being offered. Especially to Japan and other expensive countries.Travelers would rather book apartments that can cater to groups of 4 to 8 persons and is much cheaper than taking a hotel or travel package at the Matta Fair.Romantic packages will see a slight decrease due to the aggressive online promotions done by many non-Malaysian companies.Some say that print media is dead, what about travel magazines?Travel Magazines at Matta FairTravel magazines are dead, so they say, but you will still see some companies promoting their travel magazines at Matta Fair 2018. Honestly, who buys magazines anymore?Let me share with you some information on this. Five to ten years ago, before the full strength of the digital age, there were still consumers who bought travel magazines.But when travel information was easily available online, this trend took a serious dip and many travel magazines started to close shop. Some of them are still around which is quite surprising.Is it that consumers are still buying and reading them? That is a very good question. However, let me share with you some information about this.In most cases, travel agents and tourism boards are coaxed into advertising in the magazines, and promised a circulation or readership of four to five times. So if the print circulation is 10,000 copies, then you would expect a 50,000 readership. Right?More and more travel magazines are closing shop in MalaysiaDo you honestly think this actually happens in today's world? Here is the fun part. Most old school bosses or decision makers do not understand how powerful the digital age is, and yet, they continue to purchase advertising space and featured stories in magazines.Yes, it looks great to see your ad or feature story in the magazine. But who is reading them? The harsh truth is that only the bosses or the clients who bought ads or sponsored articles will be seeing them.Also they kind of look good on your office reception table. And did the magazine send you like 10 copies of that issue? Have you taken a look at the magazine's company store?However, not all is lost as I realised that only the airline magazines are the ones that are still making an impact. Yes, Going Places, Three Sixty, MalindoMag and FireFlyz Magazine are the ones that traveler will be reading.Why? Because when the plane is about to take off, what else can you do? Either you shut your eyes and take a nap or you will be flipping the airline magazine. Great tactic right?More people are heading online to make travel bookingsTourism Technology versus Matta FairPeople will claim that they are already on social media and so on, but is that the correct move or strategy? I honestly beg to differ, because as Malaysians, many of us still do not fully understand the dynamics of the digital age. I have personally spoken to many travel agents in the industry and always get the same answer. Yes, they all claim they know what is social media and have a Facebook page. Some of them also claim they have a modern website and Instagram account. But the problem is that these companies treat their social media accounts just like their own personal account. And most people tend to think they know it all, but in actual fact, it is just the surface level.All they do is post hard sell photos of their travel packages, hoping for conversion by consumers asking them to private message (PM).Consumers reading travel promotions at Matta FairDigital marketing is not an easy thing to do and hence there are professionals in this industry. Well, many claim they are professionals, but again it is just basic understanding of the entire game.Anyone can claim to be a professional. Just buy followers for your social media accounts and instantly, you have a facade of being a professional. Buying ads and posting regularly on social media is not your answer to digital marketing. It is a more complex game. But many travel companies always have this one big problem - no budget, and yet they want to try to get into the game.The future of online booking, a credit or debit card is all you needEverything is OnlineAlmost anything related to travel and tourism can be booked online and that is a hard fact. It started with airline tickets about 10 years ago and this was the beginning of the digital age.Nowadays, what ever you can think of, can be bought online. Just take a moment to think about this. If you wanted to book a flight and room there is AirAsiaGo who offers this combination.You can even book bus, train, ferry tickers and even private drivers online. Apartments, flats, homes can be booked through multiple online platforms like AirBnB and so on.Group or private tours can also be booked online, and there are even specialized tours like heritage, architecture, cooking, photography and bird watching that can be booked online too.To sum it all up, it lies in your smartphone or laptop where the entire world is connected with the click or a mouse of a touch of your fingertip.Travel bookings are moving onlineTravel Game ChangerRight now (2018), even the older generation are slowly adapting to digital technology. The older generation is aged from 50 to 60+ and have already embraced the smart phone technology and also social media. Children are educating them on online transactions, online booking, social media platforms and applications. It is only a matter of time when technology takes over completely and a majority of consumers will no longer have to visit travel fairs. This matter was highlighted to the Matta Fair organisers by me in 2013, but due to the lack of foresight, it was brushed aside. My foresight saw the slow demise of the conventional travel agents who purely depended on walk-in or corporate clients. Nowadays, loyalty is no longer a trait that is respected. All because of the competition, consumers will move to the cheaper alternatives and clients will also deal with those that can provide a better deal.End of the day, consumers wants to save money, and businesses want to make whatever they can. It is indeed a cruel world out there, and as they say only the strong will survive.Consumers crowing to make airline ticket bookings at Matta FairConclusionSince the trends started to change in the last five years or so, the smart travel agent or tour company has seen the effects of the digital age. Some have hired in-house staff to manage their social or digital platforms while most just do not see the point.I have personally talked to many travel agents over the years, and the old mindset of hard core sales is still in their blood. Younger executives who join these companies have tried to install change, but have failed along the way.The reason is that the old school thinking has deluded the management, and will not part with money for something digital or something that cannot be touched. This will be the slow downfall for some of them.Visitors entering the domestic hall at Matta FairFlight tickets will also continue to do brisk business as long as they can offer good discounts to far destinations. Malaysia cruise packages will also continue to flourish, as long as there are packages that suite the consumers.The official Matta Fair website usually updates very late and with very basic information, the layout and enquiries for booths and so on. They do not have regular updates, hence you can get first hand information from here.Muslim travel will continue to dominate as long as destinations continue to promote Muslim-friendly packages, facilities and tours. Japan is one of the countries to look out for.For the first timer to this massive travel fair in Malaysia, please read about the Matta Fair tips and tricks before you head there. It will save you a lot of time and stress.However, the Matta Fair 2018 will still go ahead and attract consumers from all over. Mostly to take advantage of the travel promotions and also to get first hand information from the tourism boards that set up booths here. 
    Friday 27th of October 2017 10:58:00 AM
  • Hornbill Valley (Lembah Enggang) at Taman Negara
    One of the new locations for bird watching is the Hornbill Valley (Lembah Enggang) at Taman Negara, Pahang. Well, the location is just outside the national park, but most people know this area as Taman Negara Pahang. Hornbill Valley was introduced back in 2012 by the Taman Negara Bird Lovers Club. Since then, only a selected few local bird watchers have been frequenting this place. Usual suspects are the Rhinoceros and Wrinkled Hornbills, which are often spotted. The star bird here is also the Helmeted Hornbill. On a recent trip here in April 2017, my objective was to do a product update on the facilities, trails, tours and bird watching spots. Chance was on my side as I met a local birder Roslan, who introduced me to Hornbill Valley as it is still considered a new place, for non-locals. Locally called Lembah Enggang, this is what it looks like in the morningBird Watching at Hornbill ValleyGenerally, the location of this place is along one of the village roads that connects Kuala Tahan to Kampung Pagi. It is a decently wide road that hardly anyone uses, and because of this, the avian life finds it peaceful. The 22 kilometer road is beautiful for sightseeing, especially if you love bicycling or riding and it bends left to right with up and down hills. There is nothing along the roads, except for a few huts that farmers may use during the season. Hornbill Valley is located at one point of this road, and there is no signage or anything that indicates it. Therefore, you need to engage a local bird guide to bring you here, and Roslan, a local birder and photographer brought me and my guide here at 7.30 AM. My bird guide Roslan leads us to Hornbill Valley in Taman NegaraFrom Kuala Tahan, it only takes about 15 to 20 minutes drive to the exact spot of the Hornbill Valley. And when I got here, there were already birds perched on some of the trees here. Our car stopped at the side of the road and we parked by the road dividers. Armed with my 300mm lens, it was not good enough as the trees were clearly about 500 meters away and the birds high on the canopy. My bird guide Roslan was armed with a 500mm lens and he could easily photograph them. Unfortunately, there were no hornbills that morning, but there were other interesting species around, so that was a pretty good indicator. Pristine rainforest at the Hornbill Valley in PahangIt is recommended that you come here before 9.00 AM, as the birds are most active around 7.00 AM to 8.00 AM. I arrived a little late to catch the hornbills, but I did get to spot around five or six species of birds within 20 minutes. Reason for this is that I was just here to see the location and head back. I was informed that on a good morning, a team of birders managed to spot 173 species around here, which is quite fascinating for any birder. Included were about 9 species of Hornbills, and this is how the place got named Hornbill Valley. Not the best shot, but it was really far and this was photographed with my 300mm lensContact For Bird Watching at Taman NegaraThere have been plans to turn Hornbill Valley into a proper conservation, and studies have been conducted of lately. However, there has been no official news to date, but I am hoping that by 2018, Lembah Enggang will be turned into a birding conservation or even an IBA (Important Birding Area).After experiencing this, I have made plans to make another visit here, just to see what numbers and species of birds I will come across. For anyone who wants to visit this place, I recommend you contact Ivy Holidays at +6 010 900 8699 or email them at transport @ ivyholidays.com as they can arrange the proper local bird guide who is one of the best in Taman Negara. I really need to go back to Hornbill Valley again with my 600mm lensYou can also read about my other bird watching articles in Malaysia to find out about the other recommended places around Malaysia. I am not a professional bird watcher, but due to my nature of work, I often travel around Malaysia and other places. When I have some free time, I will do some birding as one of my hobbies. I also wrote another article about bird watching in Taman Negara with tips on the bird locations and species to be spotted. Birders may find that handy if you are planning to visit here for some birding. If you have been to Lembah Enggang or Hornbill Valley in Taman Negara, do share your experience in the comment form below. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask below. Otherwise, just contact Ivy Holidays to arrange your trip. 
    Thursday 26th of October 2017 01:34:00 PM
  • Japan Tourism at Matta Fair
    Over the years, many tourism boards have been actively participating at Malaysia's largest consumer travel fair called Matta Fair. Countries from around the region are mostly engaged in this fair while those from the far east have also taken advantage by participating. Among the countries, Japan has been one of the aggressive ones that have been taking part for many years. Not only that, they have gathered much research and behaviours of the local Malaysian consumers and have adapted a strong approach to inviting Malaysians to visit Japan. The main Japan Booth at the Matta Fair 2017Since 2007, I have been a avid visitor to the travel fair as I have been writing much about the Matta Fair, providing information to consumers, sharing tips and other information that is related to travel or buying travel packages. For ten solid years, I have also seen the changes in trends among the travelers and in the last five years, the digital and online world has taken over most of the sales from the Matta Fair. This is due mainly to the millennials or the younger generation, who believe in the free independent travel or FIT as the industry calls it.Targeting the food travelers, Kansai Tourism had a Gastronomy experience to offerJNTO at Matta Fair MalaysiaThe Japan National Tourism Organisation or JNTO in short, saw this back then and took advantage of the change, but in a slow and steady concept. When you look back 10 years ago, it was the Chinese community from Malaysia that loved to visit Japan, but all this changed when AirAsia opened a direct route into Tokyo, then Osaka and Sapporo. With the easy and cheap direct access into Japan, this opened up more opportunities for other races in Malaysia to visit Japan. And when social media boomed in the last five to six years ago, the Malay market started to look at the far east, and Japan was one of the preferred destinations. A huge thanks goes to social media as it was the biggest factor that assisted in making up the travelers minds. Blog articles played an important role as they were shared online on popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter.The team from the Wakayama Prefecture at Matta FairJNTO saw the importance of this and started to embark on a digital approach towards the Muslim consumers. Because of the steep increase in Muslim travelers from Malaysia, discussions were held in order to cater to this growing market. Back then, Japan was barely or not ready for Muslim travelers, hence they started to incorporate Muslim friendly packages. By doing this, a number of tourism players all around Japan were encouraged to accommodate the Muslim friendly facilities to cater to this market. And today, Japan can boast of quite a number of Muslim friendly destinations, namely Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and even in Hokkaido.Chiba Prefecture with their Jalan Jalan Chiba campaign at Matta FairPurpose of Japan Tourism at Matta FairIn the last few years during the Matta Fair, I must have seen a ten fold increase in the Malaysian Muslims visiting the Japan booth at the fair. When inspecting the products sold, brochures with Muslim Friendly headlines were prominent in destinations around Japan. There were even flyers printed in Malay, to cater to the Malay speaking community. Prices were generally about the same as other normal packages, or cheaper, but the selections were pretty diverse. You should know that the Japan Tourism booth is there for promotional purposes and they do not sell any tour packages. JNTO and the prefectures or other Japanese businesses are there to promote the destinations. When a consumer wants to buy a package, they need to proceed to a travel agent that sells the Japanese travel packages.Even Don Quijote was present at the last Matta Fair in MalaysiaJapan Exhibitors at Matta Fair September 20171. VISONDATA (M) SDN BHD (Wi-Fi)2. Okayama City & Maniwa City (Local government)3. KANSAI Tourism Bureau (Local government)4. TOHOKU (Local government)5. Hokkaido Otaru City (Local government)6. IBARAKI PREFECTURE (Local government)7. OKINAWA / ?? (Local government)8. CHIBA PREFECTURE (Local government)9. EAST JAPAN RAILWAY COMPANY (Transportation)10. Tokyu Hotels (Accommodation)11. GIFU / JR-CENTRAL (Local government / Transportation)12. WEST JAPAN RAILWAY COMPANY (Transportation)13. Gastronomy Tourism in Osaka Kansai (Local government)14. AEON HOKKAIDO (Retailer)15. WASHINGTON HOTEL & HOTEL GRACERY (Accommodation)16. Hokkaido Tourism Organization (Local government)17. Prince Hotels & Resorts / Seibu Railway (Accommodation)18. Shinjuku, Hakone, Enoshima, Kamakura ?Odakyu Group? (Transportation)19. WAKAYAMA (Local government)20. STUDY in JAPAN (Education)21. Don Quijote (Retailer)The team from Okayama and Maniwa City at their booth during Matta FairCatering to the Muslim Friendly MarketOne thing that Japan Tourism learned was that the younger generation Malay community loved to travel in groups of friends or with families. And they also preferred a homestay accommodation or Ryokan compared to a hotel, mainly due to the pricing factor. But these statistics was based on a larger percentage, versus the city Malay community which preferred a more general kind of vacation, staying at hotels or resorts. With this, the Japanese prefectures had a simple guideline - Muslim friendly travel. Meeting were held with JNTO, the local prefecture offices and the industry players all over Japan. They saw the potential of huge numbers of Muslims traveling the world and wanted to tap into this market. Remember, there is also Indonesia and Brunei apart from Malaysia, so why not cater to this.Kansai Tourism Board team at the Matta Fair in MalaysiaThings did not happen overnight, but after a few years, the industry players in Japan saw potential in this specialized market and some of them decided to go Muslim friendly. Airports were also a key role in this as these would be the first entry point for the Muslim travelers.One of them is no other than the Kansai Osaka Airport, which incorporated Halal and Muslim friendly restaurants in the airport. They also added a Muslim prayer room in the airport for the convenience of Muslim travelers. Another airport to follow suit is the Chubu Centrair Airport in Nagoya which also provided Muslim friendly services and food in the airport facilities. This was done in 2014 and has provided ease for Muslim travelers into this region of Japan.Focus was paid on Muslim friendly destinations in JapanJapan Muslim Friendly Travel at Matta FairWith all the steps being looked into carefully, Japan Tourism soon saw an increase of Muslim travellers into the country and eventually more businesses started to adapt the Muslim friendly approach by offering services that were accepted. At the recent Matta Fair 2017, the number of prefectures that catered to Muslim travelers had increased. One of them, the Kanagawa Prefecture which is just south of Tokyo, which is now becoming one of the preferred destinations for Muslim travelers.The team from Kanagawa at their boothKanagawa Prefecture has also been participating at the Matta Fair as they are quite well known for many interesting tourism attractions. Popular places around Kanagawa include Yokohama, Kawasaki, Kamakura, Fujisawa, Hakone, Odawara and Oyama. Other prefectures that are popular include Kyoto, which is also a very popular Muslim friendly destination and Osaka. Currently, the cheapest way to Kyoto is also from a new train system that is budget friendly.Odakyu Group promoting their train services between popular cities in JapanJNTO at MATTA Fair 2018For the next Matta Fair 2018, you can expect more participation from different prefectures around Japan, and a majority of them will be promoting the Muslim friendly places. It is at the Japan booth that you will get the best and up to date information about the Muslim friendly services and Halal guide to Japan. Japan Tourism's participation at Matta Fair in Malaysia has definitely changed the travel landscape for Muslim travelers and also general travelers to Japan in the last five years. More emphasis has been put onto budget traveling as the consumer trends are growing fast in this area.Japan Walker SEA promoting their magazine during the Matta FairRyokan's have been one of the most popular accommodations while train travel from city to city is gaining popularity. More travelers are now visiting a few places rather than just one city like in the old days. Current generation  travelers prefer to explore on their own, and hence need information about food, facilities or accommodations. This is where Japan Tourism comes in to provide up to date information, which is also translated into Malay, Chinese and English for the ease of the different races. Again, Malaysians as a multi cultural community, prefer different things when they travel, compared to just one race. And Japan Tourism has looked deep into this to cater to each and every race in Malaysia or Southeast Asia. 
    Wednesday 25th of October 2017 03:30:00 AM
  • Legoland Aquarium Malaysia
    An addition of a Legoland Aquarium in Malaysia will continue to drive visitors to Legoland Malaysia in 2018. This exciting news was revealed in a recent press conference held here in Malaysia in 2017, and to what it will be called, there is no news available. Since Legoland Malaysia opened in 2012, the theme park had consistently added attractions and new experiences to the tourists every year, including the introduction of the Water Theme Park, Hotel Legoland, Ninja Go and recently, Star Wars.I suspect that the new Legoland Aquarium in Malaysia will be called Legoland SeaLife Aquarium Malaysia. Since there are no available photos of this project, the photos posted here are courtesy of www.undercovertourist.com which shows the California Legoland Water Park and Sea Life Aquarium in the United States.A Lego diver underwater (Photo by www.undercovertourist.com)Legoland SeaLife Aquarium MalaysiaCurrently, the Legoland Marine Aquarium is being constructed and this will make Legoland Malaysia one of the most attractive theme parks in the Southern region of Malaysia. With stiff competition coming in 2018, the group has taken measures to ensure that new attractions continue to attract visitors to the south. Construction of this project started in May 2017 with a RM50 million allocation just for the first phase of the project. The company is estimating that the entire project will be completed in 12 months, and fully functional by May 2018.What some of the attractions will look like at Legoland Aquarium Johor (Photo by www.undercovertourist.com)What the German Legoland SeaLife Aquarium looks like (Photo by www.legoland.dk)However, there has been no other news on this and there is no artist impression to date. News reports claim that the announcements will be made after July 2017, but to date, nothing solid has been announced except that Legoland Aquarium is still a go ahead. The Legoland Marine Aquarium is also a joint venture with Merlin Entertainment Group, the world?s largest global aquarium entrepreneur, and Theme Attractions. No other information is available as of to date, but this is huge news for theme park lovers as aquariums always do well in terms of tourism. The face that Legoland Malaysia is introducing a marine aquarium will surely strengthen its market share in the southern region. Come 2018, the world's first 20th Century Fox World Theme Park in Genting will be opened and this is currently the most anticipated theme park for many people.The outdoor of California's Legoland Water Park and Sea Life Aquarium (Photo www.undercovertourist.com)In Malaysia, there is only one other aquarium, which is the Aquaria KLCC in Kuala Lumpur. The other is in Singapore, called the S.E.A Aquarium, which is the world's largest aquarium. But there has also been news that another aquarium will also open by 2018 or 2019 in Malaysia. At the end of the day, all these attractions and theme parks in Malaysia will provide choices for locals and visitors to the country, and with world class names like the Legoland Aquarium in Malaysia opened, it will give lots of credibility to the country. 
    Tuesday 24th of October 2017 03:30:00 AM
  • 5 National Parks You Must Visit in Malaysia
    For the ecotourism and outdoor lover, these are 5 national parks you must visit in Malaysia when you plan a visit to this beautiful tropical country.  Malaysia has over 20 national parks and a majority of them are found in Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsular, and all of them are tropical rainforest types of national parks. These national parks are well maintained and offer an incredible experience for just about any outdoor or Eco lover and are rich with flora and fauna. To get to some of them requires a few hours of travel from the nearest city or airport but once there, the rewards are breath taking. The list of national parks to visit in Malaysia are below and in no order, with contact details and the official websites.5 National Parks You Must Visit in Malaysia Visitors walking the Taman Negara Canopy WalkTaman Negara National Park in Pahang The largest national park in Peninsular Malaysia and one of the oldest in the world with an estimate age of 130 million years old. The Taman Negara National Park is spread over three states in Malaysia which cover Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.This park was established in 1939 and was known as the King George V National Park which spreads over 4,343 square meters. The rare and highly endangered Malayan Tiger is the top of the list to spot while trekking and the park is home to the tallest mountain in the peninsular which is Gunung Tahan. Visitors can participate in trekking, hiking, climbing, rapids, bird watching, fishing, caving and even staying here for an ecotourism experience as there are basic, standard and even luxury accommodations available.The best option is to book the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort, which located in the national park. All other basic accommodations are located just across the Tembeling River which divides the national park from the small town of Kuala Tembeling. Guests usually take a small river taxi across the river to get to the park.A few of the must do things at Taman Negara National Park is trying the canopy walk, visiting the ethnic tribe village (Orang Asli Village) and doing the night walk in the park.Mutiara Taman Negara, a recommended place to stay atHow to go to Taman Negara National Park - The nearest town is Jerantut in Pahang and visitors can either take a bus or taxi to the Kuala Tembeling Jetty, which is about 16 km from Jerantut. From the jetty,  a boat ride takes about 3 hours and the fare is RM35 per person one way. Boats leave Kuala Tembeling Jetty at 9.00 a.m., 1.00 p.m. and 2.00 p.m. daily, on a first come first serve basis. Visitors can also drive from Jerantut to Kuala Tahan. It takes about 1 hour to reach Kuala Tahan at the national park.For overland, it takes about 3-5 hours journey time from Kuala Lumpur by bus or van and alternatively, you can take a 45 minute flight into Kuala Terengganu (Terengganu) or Kota Bahru (Kelantan) and overland from there. Taman Negara National Park InformationWhere: Pahang, Terengganu and KelantanWebsite: http://www.wildlife.gov.my/index.php/en/taman-negara-pahang.htmlTel: +6 09 266 1122 / +6 09 266 4152Email: tnp@wildlife.gov.myNote: Many websites out there with the name taman-negara.com or tamannegara.asia are third party travel agents who use the domain name to channel website traffic for bookings. The seaside and mangrove section of the Bako National Park in SarawakBako National Park in Sarawak One of the very unique national parks in Sarawak is called Bako National Park and it is the closest one to Kuching, the capitol of Sarawak. The Bako National Park is also the oldest national park in Sarawak which was established in 1957 and covers and area of 27 square kilometers.This is one of the smallest parks in Sarawak which offers a wide experience for rainforest, waterfalls, beaches and rocky shorelines with bizarre rock formations. Boats that bring you to the park usually make a quick tour to see the famous Sarawak Sea Stack, which looks like a cobra ready to attack. As Bako is near the city, you can simply come here for a full day trip and alternatively stay overnight at the modern or traditional wooden chalets and dorms here. for outdoor and nature lovers, there are a total of 16 color coded hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult while for flora and fauna, this park offers almost every type of vegetation found in Borneo.There are an incredible seven complete eco-systems which are Beach Vegetation, Cliff Vegetation, Kerangas or Heath Forest, Mangrove Forest, Mixed Dipterocarp Forest, Padang or Grasslands Vegetation and Peat Swamp Forest.The arrival area of the national parkHighlights here include encountering the unique Bearded Pig, Proboscis Monkeys and the Naphentes Pitcher Plant or Monkey Cup. Bird Watching is also one of the highlights and best done with the park rangers here.The main camp ground offers a full facility modern restaurant with clean showers and washrooms. however, look out for the naughty macaques who tend to try and steal your food and drinks. Park accommodation consists of 3-bedroom Chalets, 2-bedroom Lodges, 4-bedroom Hostels and a camping ground.How to go to Bako National Park - From Kuching, you can take a taxi or Petra Jaya Bus No. 6 to Kampung Bako (Bako Village) which takes around 45 to 60 minutes. At the village main jetty, boats can be chartered at the National Parks Boat Ticketing Counter next to the jetty for the 30-minute boat ride to the main Bako Park HQ. The best way to go to Bako is to book a tour from Kuching city as everything will be arranged for you.Bako Boat ServicePerson In Charge : Mr.Shadad Haji OmarTel: +6 010 9493 860Bako National Park InformationWhere: South of Kuching, SarawakWebsite: http://www.sarawakforestry.com/htm/snp-np-bako.htmlTel: +6 082 610088 Toll free line: +6 1 800 88 2526Email: info@sarawakforestry.comNote: Bako can be visited for a day trip or an overnight trip. Many travel agents in Kuching offer tours here and you can simply book them from Kuching city.The entrance to the Penang National ParkPenang National ParkThis is probably the worlds smallest national park at a size of 12.13 square kilometers and offers a dual rainforest and beach type national park which was also gazetted in 2003. This makes it one of the newest national parks in Malaysia which is only offering day trips here. There is no lodging available but visitors can stay outside at various hotels, hostels or homestays. The Penang National Park is probably suitable for those wanting to see the hidden beauty of the many beaches around here which total nine beaches and are pristine and quiet. Trekking to these beaches are the main highlights while there is also a canopy walk in the park and along the way, you will see in the distance, local fishing villages.There are two entrances to the park which is the Teluk Bahang entrance, the main one and the Kuala Sungai Pinang entrance, which is the second one. However, many visitors would choose the main entrance as it is much easier.The seaside trek at the national parkThere is flora and fauna available with over 1000 species of plants recorded throughout the national park. Bird watching enthusiast will be rewarded as quite a number of birds can be found here. In total, there are two main trails and many other hiking paths at the park.Entrance is free to the park but those wanting a guide can book a park guide from the main counter. The canopy walk fees is RM5.00 per person too. A tip is to go as early as you can, by taking a bus or private taxi.How to go to the Penang National Park - As the park is located at the end of Batu Feringgi at Teluk Bahang, you can take a bus (Rapid 102) from George Town or a taxi (RM35 one way). From George Town, the journey takes about 30 to 45 minutes one way. The park opens from 7.30 am till 6.00 pm at the Teluk Bahang Entrance while it is 8.00 am till 5.00 pm for the Kuala Sungai Pinang entrance. Penang National Park InformationWhere: North of Penang Island, past Batu Feringgi Website: http://www.wildlife.gov.my/index.php/en/taman-negara-pulau-pinang.htmlTel: +6 04 881 3530 / +6 04881 3500  Email: tnpp@wildlife.gov.myAbraham Lincoln feature seen from inside the Deer Cave at Mulu National ParkGunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak The grandest of national parks in Malaysia, Mulu National Park is hands down the most visited park in Malaysia and located in the largest state which is Sarawak, on the island of Borneo. The national park is also a UNESCO World Heritage SiteThere are multiple caves to explore here and the most famous is the Sarawak Chamber, which is the world's largest known cave chamber. The most popular cave is the Deer Cave, where you can see the rock formation of Abraham Lincoln from a certain angle inside the cave.Me and a park guide exploring the trails in MuluOther caves include the Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave which are equally beautiful. The thrill of visiting the Mulu National Park is the trekking and exploring here, where you need to trek about an hour to the Deer Cave. Every evening, outside the Deer Cave, visitors gather to see millions of bats flying out to feed.For the serious adventurer, the Mulu Pinnacles which are an amazing rock formation. However, it takes about three full days to trek here and back to the park headquarters. How to go to Gunung Mulu National Park - From Miri, the best way is to take a one hour flight into Mulu Airport with MASwings and then a ten minute ride to the park entrance. Alternatively, for the extreme outdoor lovers, you can take a traditional longboat ride from Miri or Marudi which will take you around 7-8 hours along the river to the Mulu National Park. Gunung Mulu National Park InformationWhere: North of Sarawak near Brunei, nearest city is MiriWebsite: https://sarawakforestry.com/parks-and-reserves/mulu-national-park/Telephone: +6 082 610088Email: info@sarawakforestry.comTawau Hills National Park (photo by lydiaflorensia.blogspot.my)Tawau Hills National Park in SabahOne of the popular national parks in the east coast of Sabah is the Tawau Hills National Park. This place was established in 1979 and is located about 24km from the city of Tawau. Consisting of mainly lowland dipterocarp rainoforest, the overall area of this national park is 279 square kilometers.Mostly locals visit this national park which they call 'Table', but for foreigners, you will be surprised on what you can find here. The highest peak is Mount Magdalena which is at 1,312 meters and there are a number of beautiful waterfalls and a hot spring found in the national park. A must visit place here is the 250 feet Gelas Waterfalls (Glass Waterfalls).Another fascinating find is also the worlds tallest tropical tree which stands at 88 meters tall, can be found at this park. Tawau Hills National Park offers basic lodging with chalets and hostels and there is a local restaurant operated by Sabah Parks. A tip is to avoid going on the weekend or school holidays as it tends to get crowded with locals.Taman Negara Bukit Tawau (Photo by lydiaflorensia.blogspot.my)How to go to Tawau Hills National Park - The best way is to take a taxi from Tawau town which will cost around RM30.00 one way. You can also try using Grab or Uber private car service. It is recommended that you make returns arrangement with your driver. To date, there is no public transportation available directly to the park. Always double check your transportation or get the contact number for the taxi or private car driver.Tawau Hills National Park InformationWhere: 24 km from the city of Tawau in the east coast of Sabah Borneo. Tawau is also the gateway to Sipadan and Mabul Island.Website: http://www.sabahparks.org.my/the-parks/tawau-hills-parkTelephone: +6 088 523500Email: sabahparks@gmail.comThe Mulu PinnaclesThe national parks above is highly recommended by me for anyone who is into the outdoors, trekking, hiking and nature. These parks are located in various parts of Malaysia, so depending on where you are visiting, they might be at you location.You should also note that this is a rainforest, and with that comes mosquito's and leeches. So please be prepared as different places have different types of leeches. Just prepare yourself with bug-spray and leech socks if you must.Some of these national parks need overland and boat journeys but when you book with any of the proper tour agents selling these Malaysia national park tour packages, everything is included, making your trip hassle free.My Adidas Kampung or Village Adidas rubber trekking shoes, the best for any trekking in MalaysiaAlternatively, many solo or adventure travelers would visit these places on their own, which is not impossible, but a little more effort is needed. I have personally visited many national parks in Malaysia, and hence narrowed down probably some of the easier ones to visit.There are national parks that are quite hard to get to, which I have visited, and decided not to list them here due to difficult logistics and permits needed. Those places will probably be listed in my upcoming article, especially for the hard core adventurer, so look out for that.For the first timer to this country in the tropics, I hope you find this list of National Parks You Must Visit in Malaysia handy, and if you have questions, please ask in the comment form below.
    Monday 23rd of October 2017 03:30:00 AM
  • 10 Interesting Places to Visit in Malaysia for 2018
    For the curious traveler, I have come out with a new list of 10 Interesting Places to Visit in Malaysia for 2018 as there are quite a number of unique adventures waiting to be discovered all over Malaysia.Usually, you will find the same old Top 10 places to visit in Malaysia, done by content writers who sit at desks and have never even been to any of the destinations in Malaysia.But for me,  I personally travel around Malaysia often and always introduced to new tourism products and places with a mission is to share these with my readers. You will find beaches, rainforest, highlands, old towns, food spots and more in this updated list.One of the secluded beaches at Langkawi IslandInteresting Places to Visit in Malaysia for 2018What are the Top Ten Interesting Places to Visit in Malaysia for 2018? They are listed below in no order and located all around the country.Siniawan Old Town, SarawakIpoh Old Town, PerakPerhentian Island, TerengganuSibu, SarawakSandakan, SabahLangkawi Island, KedahGenting Highlands, PahangBako National Park, SarawakBario, SarawakTawau, SabahMalaysia is now facing a really low currency exchange rate versus other major currencies and this is one of the best factors to visit Malaysia in 2018 as you would be getting an amazing bargain for almost everything, from shopping, accommodation, food and even your airfare.For first timers, you should be pleased to know that 80% of the population speaks general or good English while our infrastructure is on par with many developed countries, so moving around via land, sea or air is not a problem here.Best Places to Visit in Malaysia for 2018Siniawan Food Street, a hidden gem of Kuching Sarawak1. Siniawan Old Town, Kuching SarawakNot over exposed to tourism, the forgotten town of Siniawan is one of the biggest hidden gems of Sarawak. Known as a weekend food street, Siniawan is located about one hour from Kuching, on the way to Bau or the Fairy Caves.A pleasant surprise for firs timers, Siniawan is well known among the locals only, but in recent years, the food street has god some digital publicity. This unique food street was incorporated in 2010 by the Siniawan people, and has been seeing a steady flow of visitors on weekends.The thrill of street dining in a 100 year old town - SiniawanI recommend you go on a Friday or Saturday and be here by about 5.30 PM or 6.00 PM. There are over 50 street stalls selling all sorts of local food, and customers order what they want and dine on the main street under red lanterns. Does not get any better. To go to Siniawan Old Town - Book a tour from any of the tour desks in Kuching city in Sarawak or any travel and tour agent here. Total time spent is around one to two hours and tour prices are around RM80 to RM100 (US$20-$25) per person, including transfers only. Dinner is on your own at the food street. Many will rent a car or book Uber or Grab to get here.Some of the street art around Ipoh City, Perak2. Ipoh Old Town, PerakUsually overlooked, Ipoh was once the thriving city in Malaysia back in the tin mining days but nowadays, branded as a retirement city. However during my last visit here in 2016, Ipoh had changed quite a bit to cater to mass tourism.Food is still one of the main attractions of Ipoh but there are quite a few interesting places to explore if you love street tourism and the old colonial charm. Moreover, Ipoh was listed as one of the top cities to visit in 2017 by Lonely Planet. Concubine Lane in the old town area is a must visit as this once quiet narrow lane has transformed into a busy alley. Shops and carts occupy both sides of the alley where you will find souvenirs, food and local snacks being sold here.A couple of modern day cafes are also prominent here and on weekends, it gets really crowded with locals. And if you love street art, world renown Ernest Zachariah has left his mark in certain spots around Ipoh Old Town area.Kong Heng Square's market in Ipoh Old TownAnother must-visit place in Ipoh is Kong Heng Square, a block of old pre-war colonial buildings which have been beautifully refurbished and renovated to maintain the old world charm.Here, you will find an assortment of cafes, restaurants, antique shops and even a boutique hotel. On weekends, a bazaar is held in the vicinity. The best time to explore Ipoh Old Town is on the weekends too.For family fun, there is the Lost World of Tambun, a family theme and water park, 20 minutes from town and for accommodation, there is The Banjaran, a hot spring luxury resort and also The Haven, an exclusive award-winning hotel, both located about 20 minutes from Ipoh main town. To go to Ipoh Old Town - I highly recommend taking the Electric Train Service or ETS from Kuala Lumpur as it only takes two hours one way. You can spend a full day here or overnight and leave the next day. Alternatively, you can rent a car from Kuala Lumpur and drive up two hours.More information - Visit Destination Perak (http://destinationperak.travel/), the tourism board of the state or you can also read my other article on Places to Visit in Ipoh Perak.Long Beach at Perhentian Island3. Perhentian Island, TerengganuOne of the earliest tourism destinations in Malaysia since the 60's when backpackers first landed at is the Perhentian Islands. Nowadays, luxury resorts, family resorts, dive resorts and guest houses are found on both islands, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil.You should also know that Perhentian observes the monsoon season, meaning that from October till February, many of these resorts are closed due to the heavy rains and strong waves. One of them, The Barat Perhentian, is open during the monsoon and they are highly recommended.Perhentian Island is truly the gem of Terengganu state as to get there, it takes only about 40 minutes by boat, and suddenly you are in paradise. There are generally two types of visitors that come here, the family traveler and the young travelers.One of the secluded resorts on Perhentian Kecil IslandPerhentian Kecil (Small) is where the younger, hipster or lifestyle travelers would head too and Perhentian Besar (Big) is where the matured or family traveler will head too as it is less active and noisy. However, there are boat taxis that run all over the two islands.To go to Perhentian Island - The fastest way is to take a flight to Kota Baharu and then take a taxi (60 minutes) down to Kuala Besut Jetty. There are regular 45 minute boat services to the island which cost around RM 70.00 per person and operate from 8.00 AM till 5.00 PM.For those traveling on a budget, there are also buses from Kuala Lumpur which take around 6-7 hours to Kuala Besut or Kuala Terengganu.More Information - Visit Terengganu (http://www.terengganutourism.com/)Probably the largest wet market in Malaysia here in Sibu, Sarawak4. Sibu - SarawakOne of the least visited places in Sabah by the general tourist is Sibu, located in the center of Sarawak, Malaysia Borneo. Sibu is a strong Chinese and Melanau tribe community and serves as one of the important trading cities of central Sarawak.While the city is non commercial, there is the very interesting Sibu Cultural Centre where you can learn about the culture and heritage of Sibu.If you are a food traveler, Sibu is one of the must-visit places to experience the unique local food here. Just our of Sibu, you can also find an authentic Melanau village where you can stay at the Lamin Dana Lodge, a traditional Melanau homestay.Life along a traditional Melanau river village at Lamin Dana, Sibu-MukahThe entire village is build around a river and you move around on boats to experience this old village. You can also go all the way to Mukah from this village via boat too.For a more detailed guide to Sarawak, I have also written an article on where to go in Sarawak for 2017 and that should give you more information.To go to Sibu - There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur and from Kuching, you can travel overland for about six hours. Alternatively, taking the river ferry from Kuching is only about four or five hours but the scenic journey is amazing.More Information - Visit Sibu Website (http://www.travelsibu.com/)View of Sandakan City, Sabah5. Sandakan - SabahThere is no doubt that Sandakan is one of the gateways of East Coast Sabah to massive amounts of Eco tourism. The world famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is located here along with the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.The Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) is also located here. For those wanting to see the proboscis monkeys, head to Labuk Bay and for the nature lover, the Kinabatangan River is your best destination to see natural wildlife at its best.Sandakan is also well famed for it's local food and some of the must eat food in Sandakan was reviewed by me in December 2016. One of the beautiful islands of Sabah is also Lankayan Island which is about two hours from Sandakan.This place is awesome if you want to experience seeing turtles that come ashore, the best place is at Turtle Island or Selingan Island, about an hour from Sandakan too.To go to Sandakan - Many local airlines fly directly into Sandakan therefore connectivity is great here. From Kota Kinabalu, there are buses that take around 6-7 hours. From Kuala Lumpur, you need to fly in.More Information - Sabah Tourism Website.Pantai Cenang in Langkawi6. Langkawi Island - KedahOnce the pride of Malaysia in terms of must-visit places, Langkawi has come a long way since the 80's and in the last couple of years, a number of new hotels and resorts have opened, catering to the high end luxury tourism.Langkawi Island has always had that certain charm for visitors, not only for their duty-free status, but also for their laid back island lifestyle.Langkawi Island is the kind of place where you need at least 3-4 days to fully experience the island. Moving around the island is required therefore, most visitors to Langkawi will rent a scooter or car to explore this place.There are many tourist attractions that cater to different genres. Eco tourism is also one of the strong points of Langkawi while the most popular place on the island is Pantai Cenang Beach.To go to Langkawi - Many direct flights from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The cheaper alternative is to take a bus from KL, around five hours, then a ferry to Langkawi, one hour. From Penang Island, there are flights and also the ferry service.More Information - Langkawi Tourism Website (http://naturallylangkawi.my/)The much talked about Genting Premium Outlet - Photo by www.business.simon.com7. Genting Premium Outlet - Awana, Genting PahangOne of the most anticipated places to visit in Malaysia is no other than Genting as the news of the 20th Century Fox World Theme Park was supposed to open in late 2016.However, there has been a delay in the opening where it has been postponed to late 2017 or even early 2018.But nevertheless, the Genting Premium Outlet in Awana or GPO, is set to open somewhere in 2017 so this premium factory outlet will be the second official factory outlet in Malaysia after the Johor Premium Outlets or JPO.At one of the retail outlets at GPO (Genting Premium Outlets)The GPO will be the talk of Genting as this format follows the international standards of factory outlets, offering premium brands on sale. Please discard the Factory Outlet Store (FOS) concept as the Genting Premium Outlet is the real deal here.With connectivity of a brand new Genting Cable Car system, the GPO will have direct access to the resort and 20th Century Fox World Theme Park on top of the hill.This means you can easily move up and down as your leisure or kids having fun and parents doing some shopping. Just for your added information, this is also the Visit Pahang Year 2017.To go to Genting Premium Outlet (GPO) - There are regular taxis and buses from Kuala Lumpur which will take you around 40 minutes and stop at Awana. You can also rent a car and drive up and back down, which would be easier too.For flights, you can fly into Kuala Lumpur or Subang SkyPark Terminal and then take a bus, taxi, Uber or Grab up to GPO.More Information - https://www.premiumoutlets.com.my/genting-highlands-premium-outlets/The unique Sea Stack at the Bako National Park8. Bako National Park, SarawakWhen the word national park comes up, most people will find it boring, but here in Sarawak, the Bako National Park is one of the best national parks to visit as it is only about 60 minutes drive from the city.The experience lets you travel overland, then by boat to the national park where you can either do a day trip or stay overnight, and one of the must-see things at Bako is the Sea Stacks.Bako National Park is rich with flora and fauna where visitors will have the opportunity to see proboscis monkeys, reptiles, birds and even the unique bearded pig. Various trails are available for beginners to advance trekkers while a night walk is a must do here.The park facilities are very good as they have a park canteen, dorms and chalets. Additional information is available from one of my articles on where to go in Sarawak for 2017.To go to Bako National Park - You can book a tour from any of the travel agents in Kuching city. It is also recommended for a full day trip or an overnight trip for those who want the full experience.More Information - Sarawak Forestry Website.View of Bario 9. Bario, SarawakKnown for their unique culture and isolation from the modern day world, the Bario Highlands is my recommendation for those wanting to see a different side of Malaysia, namely the highland people of Sarawak Borneo. If you love an undeveloped place rich with culture and heritage, this is one of the places in Sarawak to visit.Called Land of a Hundred Handshakes, this simply means that the people of Bario are so friendly that everywhere you go, you will encounter friendly locals. Bario is also located 1000 meters (3,500 feet) above sea level, making this place extremely cooling and beautiful in its own natural way.Trekking from Bario to Pa LunganThere is modernization here as everything is as it was from decades ago. On what to do here, generally trekking, sampling local cuisine, bird watching and simply enjoying a laid back get away. You can also read about the many things to do in Bario which was written by me in 2017.To go to Bario - The best possible way is a flight on one of those turbo prop planes that seat up to 15 passengers and takes about 40-50 minutes. Flights depart from Miri City and can only be booked via MAS Wings Airlines. Alternatively if you have time to kill, take an 11 hour overland off road adventure.More Information - Sarawak Tourism WebsiteTawau is well known for the local and fresh seafood10. Tawau, SabahOne of the least visited places in Sabah Borneo which is filled with originality is Tawau. Located in the east coast of Sabah, Tawau is also the third largest city which is connected by road and air.Most people would know of this city, due to the Tawau Airport being the main gateway to places like Mabul Island, Sipadan Island and also Maliau Basin.However, if you truly are an explorer, Tawau would be one of the new places to discover, in terms of food and eco tourism. Being a classic old type of city, Tawau is well known for their cross food culture with Indonesia and Malaysia, hence you can find some interesting food that has been localized.Tawau's famous 'Pisang Cheese and Pisang Chocolate' from Indo CafeApart from food, nature lovers will find the Tawau Hills National Park an interesting place to explore. Tawau is also home to the only Cocoa museum in Asia which is the Teck Guan Cocoa Museum.So, the next time you visit this part of Sabah, do make it a point to explore Tawau and I have also written an article on things to do in Tawau for those interested.To go to Tawau - Direct flights from Kuala Lumpur with the local airlines. From Kota Kinabalu, there are direct flights or you can take the express bus which is around 5-6 hours.Taxis are found in the popular parts of the city therefore it is recommended to rent a car to move around as it would be cheaper and easier.More Information - Sabah Tourism Website.A trek up to Prayer Hill lets you see the magnificent view of BarioDon't forget to follow me on Instagram and Twitter for more photo updates and if you have any comments, please do leave them in the comment form below. You can also visit the Tourism Malaysia website for more information about Malaysia, however, they may not have some of the interesting places to visit in Malaysia for 2018 in their list, and hopefully these will give you additional information on Malaysia for you.Any questions, please do post them here and I will respond as soon as possible, other than that, I hope you enjoyed this article and if you are a first timer to Malaysia, Selamat Datang which means welcome and I hope you have an amazing experience here in Malaysia.
    Thursday 19th of October 2017 09:15:00 AM
  • Dive Sites at Alor Island
    There are a total of 43 commercial dive sites at Alor Island, which is quite amazing for a dive destination that is not over commercialized. But in actual fact, there are 62 recorded dive sites to date which are named. And surprisingly more which are being discovered or without a name. Alor is known for their crystal clear waters with incredible visibility and rich marine life as the dive sites of Alor are mostly located in the Pantar Straits, between Pantar island and Alor Island. The sea here is shared between the Banda Sea and the Savu Sea. If you are a beginner diver, I would recommend you be extra cautious here, or buddy with someone who has a lot of experience. The reason for this is that the currents in Alor can get a little tricky, so there are a lot of negative descends wile diving here. Alor is also well known to be the new places for muck diving as there is quite a lot of interesting macro life to be discovered. Lucky divers can find Wunderpus, Mimic Octopus, Bobtail Squid, Halimeda Ghost Pipefish, Demon Stingerfish, Mandarinfish, Blue-ringed octopus, Stargazers and many other interesting choices around here. Alor Island Dive SitesBelow is a review of each of the dive sites at Alor Island that I visited, and supported by photographs I took with my GoPro Hero 3, so the best underwater photos were selected from my diving here.Babylon dive site in Alor Island - A traditional Bubu fish trap set about 15 meters deepBabylon Dive Site Honestly, the first dive is always the dive master's check out dive, to see how the divers behave underwater, and Babylon dive site was quite decent, no currents, easy dive and great visibility with rich marine life. Babylon dive site is also the place where our group was introduced to the traditional Bubu Fishermen of Alor. This is where the local Alornese people free dive with their home made wooden goggles to place massive bamboo fish traps underwater. This shallow reef with a nice wall goes all the way to around 28 meters deep. In the five to ten meters depth you can find where the local fishermen lay their Bubu traps, but at deeper parts of the dive, I saw a couple of traps at around 15 meters too. Some even had fish in them, but as this is part of the local culture, it is what it is.If you're lucky, you can spot the Wunderpus while diving at Alor Island (Photo by Joost van Uffelen)As for the marine life, there was a good balance of small, medium and macro available, so if you are on a overall lens, this would be a great spot to get some nice underwater photos. Water temperature was around 27 degrees Celsius which was a tad cold hence I was on a 3mm full suit, and could still feel the chills as I passed the ten meter mark. Visibility was incredibly clear as I estimated at least 25-30 meters of clarity before the blue. Your immediate surroundings are so clear that you can see the vibrancy of the coral colors.Fish of all sizes are spotted at every turn of your head and if you look closely into the corals, you will encounter another world of macro life. A sea snake spotted at Mike's Delight dive site on Alor IslandMike's Delight Dive SiteMy second dive at Alor was at Mike's Delight. I asked Donovan about the name, and it relates to a diver named Mike, but to be very honest, I totally forgot the story after diving here. This is one of the dive sites where you can encounter lots of sea snakes (The white and black ones), which are harmless, provided you do not disturb them. And for corals, there are so many types in so many colors, you easily get distracted by them, often missing out the marine life. Currents here can also be from mild to strong, so this is one of the dive sites that you really need to listen to your dive master or dive guide. Overall, the balance was pretty good with a healthy reef, no signs of coral bleaching, great macro life, abundance of small to medium coral fish and some mild drifting currents. A number of Sea Apple corals were also spotted during my dive here.The dive boat I used while diving at Alor Island. Pinneng on the right while Shelley is on the left gearing up.Aquarium Dive SiteThe name says it all and you can be sure that you will be getting a full HD experience underwater at the Aquarium dive site in Alor. The visibility here is noted to be one of the best dive sites in Alor and marine life is supreme, compared to the first two dive sites. With crystal clear clarity, scuba diving is at its best here, being easily distracted by anything and everything. The maximum depth goes down to about 30 meters, but we stayed in the twenty meter depth as I tried to conserve more air so I could dive longer here. As for the temperature, it was quite cold as I got deeper, pass the 10 meter depth, so get your wet suits on for this spot because as you descend deeper, the water gets colder down here. Visibility on a good dive can reach up to 40 meters too, but during my dive, it stretched to around 30 meters.The sea anemone clusters at Clown Valley dive site at Alor IslandClown Valley Dive SiteKnown as the largest concentration of sea anemones in the world, Clown Valley dive site in Alor is indeed a spectacular experience. For fans of 'Nemo', there are many different species of clown fish (Amphiprioninae) found here which include Clarks anemonefish and Tomato anemonefish. However, as for the sea anemones, there are literally thousands of them well concentrated, and as far as your eye can see. When Donovan, our dive guide briefed us on this before descending, I literally expected to see about 10 or 20 of these anemones, but when I went down, I was in pure awe. Every where I looked, there was a different type of sea anemone housing the respective clown fishes.The healthy coral and marine life during my dive at Alor IslandHere's the fun part - Usually when you see an anemone with clown fish, they would protect their home from prying eyes or if you get too close. At Clown Valley dive site, the clown fish here were the opposite, most of the time not bothering about the diver, and on occasion, hiding in the anemone. Clown Valley is located in the southeast side of Pura Island, which sits in the middle of the Straits of Alor. It is also home to a local Alornese village with a local primary school. Sightings here was quite interesting as we spotted a beautiful Sea Apple (Pseudocolochirus) which is indeed an amazing sight when they are feeding. Apart from that, nudibranches, some eels, loads of reef fish and a healthy concentration of hard and soft corals. Warning - If you are not into Clown Fish and anemones, then just look around for other macro stuff, as there is much of it available. Some divers can only take so much of Nemo, you know what I mean.The incredible visibility while diving Alor IslandSchool's Out Dive SiteA rather peculiar name for a dive site, but School's Out in Alor Island is actually named after the experience of surfacing in front of a school and when the kids finish school. And this is also depending on the time you dive here, so ask your dive guide to give you the full experience for School's Out dive site. Really, I asked Donovan about this and this is what he explained, divers go in a few hundred meters before the school and drift all the way to the end point where you surface to see kids running about outside the local Alor school, which is just next to the coast.Some of the beautiful and colorful corals seen while diving in AlorThe Schools Out dive site starts with a sandy slope and you descend deeper into a drift along the wall-reef which is dotted with a myriad of colors from the corals and fishes. The deepest point is 30 meters, but again, being safe as always, I tend to stay around 25 meters or less and at that depth, I managed to spot black tip sharks at the lower end. Sightings include your general coral fishes, some nudi's, the occasional scorpion leaf fish, lots of soft and hard corals. Generally, the drift along the wall with a mild current is one of the best experiences for me.Alornese kids with their home made wooden goggles at School's Out dive siteBonus for Photographers - If you love to photograph something different, at the end point of School's Out dive site which is near the local village and school jetty, you will have the opportunity to photograph the local Alor kids. These kids love to jump into the waters with their home made goggles. Yes, home made with wood and window glass panes cut into shape. The kids are great divers hence you can get some amazing shots of them underwater, and above water too. Best done on a weekend as these kids are pretty free.Diving in Alor will allow you with some incredible visibility. Photo taken with my GoPro Hero 3. Complete List of Dive Sites in Alor IslandTo date, there are 62 dive sites in Alor with given names. These have been names by locals and also foreigners over the years, therefore some of them have Indonesian names, while others may sound international.Aldi CaveAlor BesarAmin's CofferArchBabi WallBabylonBat CaveBatu MandiBatu PutihBlind CaveBondi WreckBubuBulletBus StationCathedralCave PointClown ValleyCoconut GrooveColor Wall Comet BayCoral CliffsCoral GardenCrocodile RockD155A-1EdgeFault LineFerry HarborFish BowlFroggy WallGua KecilGua Sangat KecilGuliasHalf Moon BayHallHighwayHot SpringJapanese Wreck 1Japanese Wreck 3Japanese Wreck 4Kal's DreamKendi BayMike's DelightMini WallMutiaraNo Man's LandPatchPearl HarborPeter's PrizePink ForestPier MoruPier PertaminaPilz GrottoRetaSea Apple SlopesShark ChannelSharks GaloreSecret GardenSlab CitySmart's LamertSouth TrewengTri TopWreck PertaminaA Thorny Seahorse photographed at Alor Island (Photo by Joost van Uffelen)My Favorite Dive Site in Alor Island? Well, being a first timer here and only having dived at five dive sites in just two days, I would have to say it would be Clown Valley, due to the fact that I have never seen such an intense concentration of anemones in one dive.And if you are the sort that loves to photograph clown fish, this is your mecca. Trust me, you would have an amazing time here. But if you are those who only seek macro and other large subject, then Clown Valley is not the place for you.A beautiful Red Sea Apple photographed during my dive at Babylon dive siteDive Operators in Alor IslandDive Alor Dive (www.divealor.com) based in Kupang (West Timor)La P?tite Kepa Divers (www.alor-diving.com) based on Kepa Island close to AlorAlor Dive (www.alor-dive.com) based in Kalabahi TownAlami Alor Dive Resort (www.alamialor.com) based in the bay of KalabahiEco Dive Resort Alor (www.alor-divers.com) based on northern Pantar IslandFor those planning to dive here, you can also read my Alor scuba diving review or trip report. It provides overall details about my dive here in August 2017. Just to remind you, Alor Island is one of the up and coming dive destinations in Indonesia and is literally untouched.Infrastructure is at its minimum hence you need to engage a dive operator service before coming here. There is only one general three star hotel in Alor called Pulo Alor Hotel. Alternatively, you can also book the Alor Beach Front Bungalows which is a resort which is nearer to Ternate Island and on the Pantar Strait. At one of the dive sites in Alor, fantastic visibility seen hereHow much does it cost to dive in Alor Island? The golden question on the price. Well, for a 5D/4N dive package with Dive Alor Dive, it will round up to around US$700.00 per person. This will include a 3 Star Hotel accommodation, 6 dives spread over 3 days and full board meals throughout. And for the first timer here, I would seriously consider this the minimum package. I mean, if you are coming all the way here, you might as well make it a 7D/6N trip and make the best out of it. And since you are already heading here, I would also recommend you do some scuba diving at Komodo Island and also head to Raja Ampat. Sorry I could not provide more reviews for the many other dive sites at Alor as I only had two full days of diving here. Perhaps in the near future, I will pay another visit here to dive at Kal's Dream, Cathedral and some other dive sites in Alor Island. 
    Friday 13th of October 2017 03:00:00 AM
  • Diving in Alor - Trip Report Review
    This is a special trip report and review about scuba diving in Alor Island, at East Nusa Tenggara. In late August 2017, I was part of a group that was on a dive trip around the eastern part of Indonesia, and Alor Island was one of the dive destinations we visited.Previously in 2016, I had the opportunity to experience scuba diving in Komodo Island, and on this recent dive adventure from Trip of Wonders 2017, I was once again going to dive Komodo, Alor and Raja Ampat.Before I go on, I would just like to highlight that diving in Alor really opened up my eyes, due to the incredible visibility at all of the dive sites. I have never experienced such amazing visibility on a dive trip before and here is my Alor scuba dive trip report.The scuba divers group for the Alor dive in August 2017Alor Diving Trip Report Review 2017First and foremost, many of you may not know where is Alor Island, so here is a rough idea and you can also see it in the map below. Alor Island is part of East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur or NTT in Bahasa Indonesia), which belongs to the Alor Archipelago and is located just next to Flores Island (Labuan Bajo and Komodo).Alor is an island by itself and is probably one of the lesser developed places of Indonesia. There is only one town that visitors and divers will visit, which is called Kalabahi and located on the north western side of the island.Alor Island's only airport called Bandar Udara Mali-AlorThere is only one airport that is serviced by the local Indonesian airlines, and flights here are a couple of times a day. Sadly, this is the best way to get to Alor, as other alternatives include taking a fast boat from Sorong, which is the capital of East Nusa Tenggara on West Timor.Alor Island is also recommended for experienced divers or those with advance open water certification levels. I am serious here, though it looks harmless, you should read on below.Donovan Withford from Dive Alor Dive briefing us for the 1st dive. Nick, Shelley and Jackson on the rightDive Operators in Alor While our Alor dive was arranged by the organiser, we were fortunate to be diving with the pioneer dive operator who has 25 years of experience diving in this region. Dive Alor Dive was our operator, and run by Mr. Donovan Whitford, who originally hails from Australia.Speaking to Donovan during the trip, he explained that to date, there are only four or five dive operators in Alor, and three of them had only recently opened. Probably due to the infrastructure of the island, it is quite difficult to manage a dive business here.But lately, due to Bali and Komodo being over crowded by dive operators, a few are now exploring other places, and Alor Island is one of them. Donovan says, "they come and go, at the end of the day, it's how you manage your business, keeping cost low, and many new operators do not see this."I somehow agree with Donovan on his statement, after all, he has seen it all, spending a whopping 25 years of living and scuba diving around here. Many do not understand the dive economics of operating a business, the high cost involved and so on, hence Donovan is one of the smart operators.Scuba Diving in Alor with fantastic visibilityBest Time to Dive in AlorAccording to Donovan, the best time to dive in Alor is from March to December. Other months are the rainy season, and not conducive for diving, but is still possible. The ultimate best time is also from October to November, for those wanting a sure thing.Donovan has mentioned that the optimum time to dive in Alor is from August till October, where September is the peak. Some even say that chances to spot the unique Mola Mola or Sunfish is also good in September, and if you are lucky enough, you can spot an Orca or Killer Whale passing by.Scuba diving in Alor Island. Marischka Prudence in frame Water Temperature in AlorFor those who love the cold waters, Alor is the place to dive at. The underwater temperatures around here can go as low as 25 Celsius and average around 27 to 28. From May till September, it can get up to 31 or 32 Celsius, depending on the monsoon.This means, you can still dive with your 3mm wetsuit, but if you are those who feels cold during and especially after a dive, I would recommend a 5mm wetsuit. At some sites, as you go much deeper, the temperature can change drastically and drop to as low as 21 Celsius. When I explored the many dive sites around Alor, I initially started with a 3mm full wetsuit, but the chore of getting in and out of it resulted in me diving in my t-shirt and shorts in the 27-28 waters. I wish I had brought my O'Neill shorties along.The amazing visibility while diving at Alor IslandVisibility at Alor IslandThis is one of the main selling points of diving in Alor, the incredible visibility found at almost all of the dive sites. On a really good day, you can get up to 40 or even 50 meters visibility, but on average, we are looking at around 25-30 meters of visibility. Isn't that amazing?The visibility can change mid-dive due to the sudden current changes, but overall, if you are an underwater photographer, Alor is one of the amazing places for landscape shots. Thanks to the rich marine and coral life, you can only imagine a free diver doing his or her thing with beautiful colors and great visibility.The strong currents seen along the Alor StraitsCurrents in AlorOne of the concern for beginner divers and a bonus for current lovers, they can get from mild to strong around Alor Island. Most of the dive sites are mild or medium currents, but can change within hours.This simply says that you really have to listen carefully to your dive master or dive guide during the briefing. What he or she shares is very important, especially if the current changes during mid dive.Because of the strong currents that flow through the channel and into the bay area, you see massive sections of water ripples on the surface, sometimes whirlpools too, and they can look really scary from the boat.A traditional Bubu fish trap seen at Babylon dive site in Alor IslandPopular Dive Sites in AlorI counted a total of 43 dive sites found in the main Alor area alone, which is quite stunning. But in actual fact, there are 62 recorded dive sites all over Alor island.However, we only managed dived at five of them, which Donovan claimed as some of the best. The most popular dive site at Alor Island is The Cathedral and Kal's Dream, but due to strong currents, we had to forgo both dive sites for safety reasons. We had two full days of diving in Alor which was quite amazing. The list of dive sites in Alor that we dived are;Babylon - Easy and interesting dive by Ternate Island.Mike's Delight - Located by Pura Island and mild currents. Aquarium - The name says it all, located opposite Ternate Island on the main Alor Island. Clown Valley - Probably my favourite dive site in Alor. One word - Amazing!School's Out - One of the best drift dives, located on Pura Island. You can read a more detailed description about the Alor Island dive sites as I focused on each of the sites mentioned above. There is information about the depth, currents, marine life and so on.A beautiful Sea Apple among the corals at Alor IslandWhat to See While Diving in AlorGenerally, the marine life here is overall rich as the entire place is undisturbed by mass diving. This is excellent news for those who love quiet dives. As for what to see while diving in Alor Island, you can find quite a lot of interesting things. First of all, at some of the dive sites you may get the opportunity to see the local Alor Bubu Fishermen in action underwater. These are the local Alornese people who free dive and set their fish traps underwater at incredible depths.For general marine life, it is extremely rich here due to the locals only catching what they need to consume. The entire place is gazetted as the Alor Marine Park and you can be sure that no illegal fishing techniques are practised here.Part of the sea anemone seen at Clown Valley dive site in Alor IslandAs for muck divers or macro divers, Alor is well known for this and for those who enjoy anemone, just request the Clown Valley dive site which is touted to be the largest sea anemone concentration in the world.One of the unique corals to look out for are the Sea Apples, who are bright in color and standing out from the usually corals. I must have seen about four to five of them while diving at Alor Island.The traditional Bubu fishermen of Alor IslandConclusion to Diving in Alor Island ReviewAfter I have shared all of the above, what you are getting is one of the best dives in Indonesia. Imagine rich marine life, cold waters, mild currents for drifts with no one else around, this is truly a scuba divers paradise.My dive trip report and review on Alor Island was based on an overall experience exploring this part of Indonesia. The trip was arranged by Tourism Indonesia under the Wonderful Indonesia Adventure Dive campaign for 2017.Together with 9 other divers, we traveled from Bali to Alor, then to Komodo Island and then to Raja Ampat for some of the best scuba diving in east Indonesia. Be sure to follow me for more articles on scuba diving in Indonesia as I will be publishing my other dive trip reports here. 
    Tuesday 10th of October 2017 09:15:00 AM
  • Top Bird Watching Places in Malaysia
    These are currently the Top Bird Watching Places in Malaysia, based on speaking to various professionals and bird watchers in the last twelve months since the end of 2015. I have also attended birding workshops in Malaysia and attended numerous bird watching trips to come up with this list. The top bird watching places in Malaysia are also in no order and purely based on popularity, infrastructure and accessibility to these places, where many birders have visited.What are the Top Bird Watching Spots in Malaysia? Kinabatangan River, SabahTaman Negara, PahangFraser's Hill, PahangLangkawi Island, KedahTabin Wildlife Reserve, SabahAwana Genting, PahangPaya Maga, SarawakBario Highlands, SarawakDanum Valley, SabahMaliau Basin, SabahRainforest Discovery Center, SabahCrocker Range National Park, SabahBird Watchers at the Borneo Highlands in SarawakSome of the places mentioned above require traveling via two flights, overland journeys and even river cruising or trekking. Malaysia, being in a tropical climate, offers over 600 species of birds, that cover many different kinds of terrains.You can generally choose tropical rainforest, coastal, island, montane and wetland locations to spot the different species of birds in Malaysia.Best Bird Watching Places in MalaysiaA flock of Straw-headed Bulbul's in Kinabatangan River, Sabah. Photo by Wokoti1. Kinabatangan River, Sabah BorneoKnown to be one of the best places to see natural wildlife and birds is the Kinabatangan River in Sabah. Located about 4 hours from the city of Sandakan, the visitors who come here are are mostly nature lovers and photographers.What is great about Kinabatangan is that you get to cruise around in boats to spot birds and wildlife here. Early morning trips to night boat trips are the highlights here.Star Bird for Kinabatangan River: Straw-headed Bulbul, Storms StorkTo get here: Book your tour with North Borneo Safari, a company who specializes in bird watching tours or bird photography tours in SabahA Great Hornbill spotted in Taman Negara National Park, Pahang2. Taman Negara, PahangThe oldest national park in Malaysia is Taman Negara National Park, where it takes only about 5 hours travel one way. There are over 450 species of birds found around the national park and at the main park resort area, one can easily spot birds here.A nature lovers paradise, there is the luxurious Mutiara Taman Negara Resort in the park and many other hotels and guesthouses outside the national park provide standard accommodations for bird watching in Taman Negara.Other places around Taman Negara include taking a boat ride up the Tembiling River and also to Lata Berkoh which is highly popular for bird watchers. The Taman Negara Canopy Walk is also another place for birding, but by trekking there.One of the new areas for bird watching is at Hornbill Valley or Lembah Enggan where a number of species of hornbills have been spotted apart from other lowland birds.I visited this place in April 2017 just to check it out and saw a Gold Whiskered Barbet from the main road. A couple of Minivets were also spotted easily here.Star Bird for Taman Negara: Garnet Pitta, Large FrogmouthTo get here: Ivy Holidays in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur provides bird watching tours to Taman Negara. You need to contact them atThe Malayan Whistling Thrush, photographed by Janetli SF3. Fraser's Hill, PahangThe closes place to Kuala Lumpur to go bird watching is Fraser's Hill in Pahang. It only takes two hours drive up here and you can do this on a day trip or even an overnight trip.This place is also home to the Fraser's Hill International Bird Race for the past 30 years and every year, there is a healthy growth of bird watchers coming here to participate. Over 270 species of birds have been recorded here with quite a good number of endemics too.There are many easy treks available here while birds are easily spotted. Note you will see many bird photographers over the weekend here, and who knows, you may even end up making new birding friends here.Star Bird for Fraser's Hill: Malayan Whistling ThrushTo get here: You can self drive from Kuala Lumpur as it is only a 2 hour drive up here. For bird watching tours, you can contact Mr. Durai, who is one of the best bird watching guides for Fraser's Hill.Langkawi's Mountain Hawk Eagle, photo by Allan Hopkins, c/o www.hiveminer.com4. Langkawi Island, KedahOften known as an island getaway, Langkawi Island is well known as a birders paradise with a good number of hornbills to be spotted. Because it is an island, you get the best of rainforest lowland birds and also coastal birds.Self birding or guided birding can be done here as the island is easy to drive around. There are many hotels ranging from luxury to budget available on this duty free island.Star Bird for Langkawi Island: Mountain Hawk Eagle (Migration bird)To get here: Most people will find their own way here via flights from Kuala Lumpur. Once on the island, you can contact Irshad Mobarak from Jungle Walla as they are the pioneer bird and nature guides on the island.Tabin's Starbird, the Long-tailed Broadbill. Photo by Jason Azahari Reyes of Sabah5. Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah BorneoLocated on the east coast of Sabah, Tabin Wildlife Reserve is another premier bird watching location which is guaranteed to let you see some endemic birds of Borneo. Over 220 species of birds have been recorded here and if you stay long enough, you could possibly see 70% of them.The bird guides here are also one of the best guides I have worked with and they know their birds. My last trip here, I wanted to see some Pittas, and they called them naturally by whistling.Tabin is a nature paradise as you get to see quite a lot of birds, plus there are not many tourist here but more nature lovers. Elephants are also sighted apart from clouded leopards and other wildlife. The resort is also very nice and one of the best rainforest resorts in Malaysia that I have stayed at.Star Bird for Tabin Wildlife Reserve: Long-tailed BroadbillTo get here: Contact Tabin Wildlife Resort as they are the only resort here and provide bird watching and nature tours here.The smallest raptor in the world, at Awana Genting. Video Grab by Loh Ming Lee6. Awana Genting, PahangHalfway up to the resort city of Genting Highlands or Resorts World Genting as it is now called, you will stop at a place called Awana Genting. Here, you have the opportunity to spot montane birds in the cool highlands.Recommended to go up early, before 7.00 am to catch the active birds up here. I once went up in the morning, and spotted the Black-Thighed Falconet on a tree.Star Bird for Awana Genting: Black-Thighed FalconetTo get here: Self drive one hour to Awana Genting. There are no special tours available currently.The star bird of Paya Maga, Sarawak - Black Oriole. Photo by Tony Saw7. Paya Maga, Lawas, Sarawak BorneoA relatively new birding spot in the north of Sarawak is Paya Maga, and it is only here where you can find the endemic Black Oreol.However, getting to the location will take you over 5 hours of travel and trekking. Along the way, many lowland birds can be spotted. This is still one of the lesser visited places for bird watching in Sarawak.Star Bird: Black OrioleTo get here: You need to book a specialist to visit this place. There is probably only one or two people operating this bird tour for Paya Maga.The rare Dulit Frogmouth in Sarawak, photographed by Yeoh Siew Teck of Birding Borneo. 8. Bario and Bakelalan Highlands, SarawakThe highlands of Sarawak Borneo offer some very interesting bird watching and there are two places called Bario and Bakelalan which are suitable for this. They are located north east of Sarawak and the closest city is Miri.One needs to fly to these towns which are located 1000 meters above sea level and with the most simple traditional lifestyle. There are no hotels or modern infrastructure here, only homestays managed by the local ethnic people of the highlands.I have been personally birding in Bario over the last three years, in total visiting four times and each time, with bird guide Scott Apoi.The beauty about birding here is that the cool highlands provides a great walking and birding experience. The Dulit Frogmouth was last spotted about two to three hours out of Bakelalan town.Star Bird for Bario Bakelalan: Dulit FrogmouthTo get here: Contact Scott Apoi of Nigmat Ayu Homestay in Bario as he used to do bird watching and still does once in a way. He knows the best places to see birds in Bario and Bakelalan.Danum's Hill Blue Flycatcher, photographed by Apisit Wilaijit of Thailand. 9. Danum Valley, Sabah BorneoOne of the premium bird watching locations in Malaysia is Danum Valley, which comes complete with a good selection of the Borneo Birds and a luxurious rainforest staying experience. The bird guides here are also one of the best in Malaysia with in-depth knowledge of the local birds found around here.A great place to bird watch is also at the Danum Canopy Walk, which is one of the most unique in the world. Other places requires much trekking and the night birding is also recommended here.Star Bird for Danum Valley: Hill Blue FlycatcherTo get here: You can book directly with Borneo Rainforest Lodge who manages the exclusive resort or contact North Borneo Safari Tours, who organises specialized bird watching tours to Danum Valley.A bird watching guide at Maliau Basin in Sabah10. Maliau Basin, Sabah BorneoOne of the more challenging areas in Borneo and located about 4-5 hours from Kota Kinabalu is the Lost World of Sabah, or Maliau Basin. This fully protected conservation area is non-commercialized and requires a permit and tour company to bring you in. By saying that, you can only imagine what is waiting for you.Star Bird for Maliau Basin: Blue Banded PittaTo get here: North Borneo Safari Tours provides specialized bird watching trips here.One of the most sought after birds in Sabah, the Bornean Bristlehead. Photo: Lee Teck Seng11. Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC), Sandakan SabahThe RDC in Sandakan is one of the very popular places for bird watching in the east coast of Sabah. Here, you will find the mascot of birds in Sabah, which is the Bornean Bristlehead, a bright colored endemic of Sabah, and Borneo.RDC also boasts of the best modern canopy walk system in the country, a massive steel canopy walk that stretches almost one kilometer long. There are also three towers for bird watching along the canopy walk which makes this place really interesting.The RDC is also home to a bird festival, but from time to time, the festival moves around Sabah and this years Borneo Bird Festival 2017 takes place in Kota Kinabalu and Crocker Range National Park.Star Bird for Rainforest Discovery Center (RDC): Bornean Bristlehead To get here: North Borneo Safari organises day trips here or you can make your own way here from Sandakan city. I would recommend you use the birding specialist as they know where the best spots are to see the birds, versus walking around on your own.The Bornean Ibon, photo by Wong Tsu Shi, Borneo Birds12. Crocker Range National Park, Sabah BorneoLocated just under two hours drive from Kota Kinabalu city is one of the up and coming places in Sabah for bird watching. The Crocker Range National Park has been visited by avid birders for many years too.Recently after the promotion of the Borneo Bird Festival which will be held in the city and at the national park, more bird watchers are starting to visit this place due to it not being over crowded. Watch this place as it will eventually be a popular bird watching spot in Sabah.Star Bird for Crocker Range National Park: Bornean IbonTo get here: Travel from Kota Kinabalu City via van takes you about two hours drive. Bird watching operators usually offer packages that include guide and transport. You can also rent a car and self drive here using Waze or Google Maps. There is a minimal park entry charge. For beginners, it is recommended to engage one of the professional bird guides in Sabah. The magnificence Maliau Basin in Sabah, photographed by Cede PrudenteThe list above is compiled by me, David Hogan Jr, who is an amateur bird watcher since 2008. I have been writing about bird watching since back then, and always ready to explore any new bird watching places in Malaysia. Most of the places listed above have also been visited by me, but I am not a serious bird photographer.You can also read about my other birding adventures locally and also around the world, namely bird watching in Indonesia or even about the many Malaysia bird watching events that take place throughout the year.For birders who plan to travel to this beautiful tropical country, I hope this list of Top Bird Watching Places in Malaysia will come in handy for your trip here. And always remember to get a professional bird guide for your trip, depending on which part of Malaysia you want to do bird watching. 
    Monday 9th of October 2017 10:10:00 AM
  • Taking Bahari Express Fast Boat to Raja Ampat
    One of the ways to go to Raja Ampat is by taking the Bahari Express Fast Boat from Sorong to Waisai in Raja Ampat. Most travelers would like to know what is the best way to get here, and from my trip in September 2017, I managed to experience using Bahari Express. In another article, I have shared information on traveling to Raja Ampat, from Bali, Jakarta or Makassar in Indonesia. That article provides information on flights to Sorong in West Papua, before connecting to Waisai. Also, please read about the Raja Ampat Marine Park Permit at the end as it is very important.Bahari Express VIP Ticket to Raja Ampat from SorongHow to take the Bahari Express Fast Boat to Raja AmpatMost travelers would make their way to the city of Sorong in West Papua. From here, you can either take a short flight to Waisai or take the Bahari Express fast boat which takes only two and a half hours. Below are the steps you need to do;Arrive in Sorong AirportTake a taxi to the Sorong Jetty or Sorong Harbor (IDR 100,00)Book Bahari Express fast boat to Waisai Choose Standard Seat (IDR 130,000) or VIP Seat (IDR 220,000) per personVIP seating is air-conditioned with KaraokeFerry departs 2.00 PM dailyExtra trip at 9.00 AM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday Journey takes 2.5 hours to WaisaiArrive Waisai and wait for your resort boat to pick you up at the harbor/portThe Sorong Harbor where you catch the Bahari Express fast boat to Raja AmpatAs simple as it sounds, you should book your tickets from the Bahari Express counter and possibly get your return ticket together. I would recommend you take the VIP ticket as it is more comfortable. On board the ferry, there is a small cafeteria selling hot and cold drinks with limited selections. If you are hungry, they also sell popular Indonesian cup noodles with hot water provided. Biscuits and snacks are sold there too. There is an outdoor area behind Bahari Express boat, for those who want to stretch their legs or go for a cigarette. The economy class is usually filled with locals traveling from the islands.The VIP seating on Bahari Express from Sorong to Raja AmpatVIP Ticket on Bahari ExpressSince I took the VIP ticket on the fast boat, the seats were spacious and comfortable. The air condition is also quite cold, while there is a large flat screen television in the front along with a Karaoke machine. Not that anyone sang any songs along the two and a half hour journey, but they pre-program it to play some popular English and Indonesian songs throughout your journey. Lyrics appear on the screen so you can sing along if you like. I think, most people sitting here took the opportunity to sleep throughout the journey as it was quite a smooth ride. This is mainly because the boat is huge, and you don't really feel the rocking motion. Perhaps if the weather is brutal, you could feel it.The Bahari Express ticket counter at Waisai, Raja AmpatBahari Express Fast Boat TicketsAt Sorong Harbor, look for a building that sells tickets or 'Loket'. Ask the locals where the counter is, tell them you want to take Bahari Express to Waisai. They will point you in the right direction. After getting your tickers, head to the jetty and look for the fast boat with the name Bahari Express on it. It's quite huge. The one I took was red and white in color. From Waisai back to Sorong, there is a Bahari Express ticket counter in the post area, so it is hard to miss. However, to be super sure, ask the locals there, and they will point you to the counter.Boarding the fast boat to Sorong from Waisai HarborWhen you get into and off the fast boat, please be cautious as they only have a wooden plank for you to step on. Boat assistants will help you get on and off the boat. So, if you have multiple bags, be extra careful. At the arrival destinations, you will encounter local porters (without uniforms) coming into to boat asking you if you need help with your bags. Usually if you ignore them, they will not bother you. But if you really do need their service, you can engage them and pay them a couple of thousand Rupiah.Express Bahari fast boat from Waisai to SorongOther Ferry Boat Service to Raja AmpatThere are other ferry services from Sorong to Waisai, but they are larger and take longer, probably three to four hours. They are Getsemani Ferry and Fajar Mulia Ferry service. It is noted that their schedules are not fixed, so it is best to take Bahari Express. This is important as when you are buying your Bahari Express Fast Boat Ticket, make sure you double check the ticket. Due to language or confusion, you may end up with another company ferry which is also going to Waisai.Scene at the Waisai Harbor in Raja Ampat, this is where you depart to your resortsWhat happens if I miss the Bahari Express ferry? Usually you need to get into Sorong before 12 noon. This gives you ample time to arrive at the harbor and get your tickets. So, if you flight is delayed, and you arrive at 1.00 PM, you simply need to spend a night in Sorong and catch the ferry the following day. Well, situations have happened before where flights are delayed, so bet to be prepared for this, in the event it does happen to you. There are numerous budget hotels or decent hotels found around Sorong, so choose one ear the harbor if you must.Scene at the Sorong Harbor in West PapuaSometimes, the morning fast boat schedule may be cancelled, as it has happened before. Not frequent, but you should be prepared due to weather or mechanical failure. Therefore, you will be pushed to the afternoon 2.00 PM boat.Getting the Raja Ampat Marine Park PermitThis is important as you are required to get the Raja Ampat Marine Park Entry Pass before you arrive in Waisai. Without this, you could pay a fine or be refused entry at Waisai, so please read up the article I wrote on that in the link above. With this, I hope that this information is valuable in helping you plan your Raja Ampat trip. Again, I was invited by Indonesia Tourism on the 2017 Trip of Wonders Adventure and Dive Campaign, and Raja Ampat was one of the destinations that I explored.Inside the economy seating area of Bahari ExpressThe Cafe or Cafeteria on board Bahari ExpressSorong to Waisai ferry ticket from Bahari ExpressKnown as one of the best places on the planet to visit, this has indeed been a huge tick for two of my bucket lists - Diving in Raja Ampat and also visiting Piaynemo, one of the most beautiful natural structures in the world. To summarize it, I highly recommend taking Bahari Express fast boat to Raja Ampat as this is probably the most economical and easiest way to get to Raja Ampat from Sorong. Just remember to plan for extra days in the event of delays and so on. Have questions, please do ask below in the comment form.. 
    Friday 6th of October 2017 07:56:00 AM
  • Bakelalan Salt Factory
    A visit to the Bakelalan salt factory is not to be missed for anyone who is planning to explore this part of Sarawak Borneo. Bakelalan or Ba'kelalan is a highland town that sits at 1000 meters above sea level in the Maligan Highlands of north east Sarawak.For adventure tourist, Sarawak is probably one of the best places in Malaysia to visit, simply due to the many non-commercialised tourism destinations. Places like Bakelalan are still untouched with very little modernisation and culturally rich.Visiting the Bakelalan Salt FactoryTo get to Bakelalan, there are only two ways to do so, one is via small propeller aircraft from the city of Miri, and the other is overland via logging roads, which can take anywhere from seven to nine hours.The beautiful view when entering BakelalanIf you choose the overland way, it would be an adventure by itself as you get to see the interior of Sarawak, passing small villages and rainforest. At times, you pass beautiful view points which make you stop just to take a photograph.Once you arrive in Bakelalan, you will notice that the weather gets a little cooler as you are at the peak of the highlands. Villages are seen in small valleys and best viewed from the peak, and usually it is the main village area where you will be staying at.There are actually three salt factories found in Bakelalan, but the most popular one is called Buduk Bui, which is a community salt factory and probably the best to visit.Bakelalan salt making process at Buduk BuiHow is the Bakelalan Salt Produced?When you visit the Buduk Bui salt factory, the locals there will take you through the process of how they make the Bakelalan salt. It is quite interesting to know that they can extract the salt from the natural salt spring or salt well from nearby. From the salt spring water, they process of boiling it and stirring it eventually reveals the salt contents from the half metal barrel used. Traditional fire is used to boil the water and firewood of a certain type is collected from around Bakelalan. The last process sees the community packing the salt for sale. Nowadays, they use the commercial method of packing the salt in plastic bags, but back in the day, they would use a certain type of leaf to wrap the rock salt.The local Lun Bawang people posing with the Bakelalan SaltWhere to buy Bakelalan Salt? The best place to buy the famous Bakelalan salt is directly from the Buduk Bui salt factory. After you visit here, you can buy it straight from the makers as this is the freshest quality of iodine salt.Other places that sell Bakelalan Salt include the villages of Bakelalan where you are staying. You can always ask the home owner to buy the salt as they will carry some or get some for you.The processed salt after boiling it for hoursThe next best place to buy Bakelalan salt is in the city of Miri, where you can find them at the local markets, especially at the Tamu Khas or Special Market. This Tamu Khas is a section of the main Miri market, where only ethnic produce is allowed to be sold. If you are visiting Lawas town, they also sell Bakelalan salt as Lawas is one of the gateways to Ba'kelalan using off road vehicles. Note that traveling off road will take you at least seven hours.You can also find another similar salt in neighbouring Bario. For those traveling to Bario in Sarawak, this is the sister village of Bakelalan and they too produce their own salt apart from other homegrown produce.Garam Bakelalan or Bakelalan SaltFinally, in Kuching city, there may be a few shops that sell Bakelalan salt, especially along the main Kuching Waterfront shopping bazaar area. Take not that there is also the famous Bario salt, so you can choose wither. As a frequent visitor to Sarawak, I have always been fascinated by the ethnic produces, food and overall cultures, namely in Bakelalan and Bario. Something about this that makes everything so real, compared to the current city life that most of us face nowadays. I would honestly recommend making a trip to the Kelabit Highlands as it is no one of your commercial tourism destinations. And when you are here, make sure you pay a visit to the Bakelalan salt factory to see how some of the best salt in Malaysia is produced. 
    Wednesday 4th of October 2017 07:31:00 AM
  • DRT Malaysia 2018 - Diving Resort Travel Expo
    The Diving Resort Travel Expo Malaysia or DRT Malaysia 2018 is taking place in Kuala Lumpur from the 2-4 February 2018. This is also the first time that the popular regional dive expo is coming to Malaysia. Dive operators, tourism boards, dive professionals and dive equipment dealers from locally and internationally will also be present at DRT Malaysia 2018, making this probably the biggest dive expo Malaysia has ever seen. The reason for this is that DRT has been around for years, having shows in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Taiwan, Philippines, India and Singapore. This time around, Malaysia has been selected as one of the venues for their dive expo as scuba diving in Malaysia has grown quite a bit in the last five years. Scene at a dive expo in MalaysiaDRT Malaysia 2018Diving Resort Travel is known as the largest diving and resort expo in Asia, with a database of over 90,000 registered members all over Asia. On average, each of the DRT shows accommodate 1,300 booths and cater to thousands of consumers. Catering to scuba diving enthusiast locally and from around the region, DRT Malaysia promises the latest in all things diving. Renown speakers from Malaysia and around the region will showcase topics on various subjects ranging from underwater photography to free diving. The list of speakers for DRT Malaysia 2018The latest underwater equipment from various manufactures will also be on display, including dive gear, dive apparels and underwater camera equipment. This is also a great time for the consumers to get some of the items at promotional prices. Hotels and resorts from Malaysia and around the region will be participating to showcase their property and also facilities, which include scuba diving or dive centers. This allows scuba divers to get a first hand knowledge of the dive resort and possibly make bookings for future dive trips. Diving at Komodo Island National Park in East Nusa TenggaraTourism boards are also one of the highlights as they will be there to promote the diving destinations for the respective countries. One of them to look out for is Indonesia Tourism, as they have been aggressively promoting diving in Indonesia, namely at diving in Komodo National Park and also Raja Ampat. Statistics of the DRT ExpoThe DRT show in Malaysia is specifically targeted towards existing scuba divers and would-be scuba divers who want to know more about this interesting sport and hobby. If you have been thinking of doing scuba diving, then this is the dive expo show for you to attend.There will also be 9 DRT Shows in 2018, which will be held in 9 cities in Asia - Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Taiwan, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and India.DRT Show Malaysia 2018When: 2-4 February 2018Where: Putra World Trade Center (PWTC), Kuala LumpurTime: 11.00 AM to 8.00 PMTickets: RM10.00 Website: http://www.malaysiadiveexpo.com/Consumers taking advantage of the special offers during a dive expo in MalaysiaAs a dive and travel writer, I have been scuba diving since 2008, having visited a number of places around the region and the world for diving. My latest dive trip was in September 2017 to Alor Island, Komodo National Park and also Raja Ampat to experience diving at these amazing places. Honestly speaking, nothing beats going diving at a destination that is hard to get to, and the journey to get there is already an adventure by itself. I always make it a point to explore the local food and culture apart from just scuba diving. Hopefully, I will have the chance to attend DRT Malaysia 2018 to meet up with tourism boards, dive operators and dive friends whom I have met over the years. I believe that this expo will probably be the best scuba diving expo Malaysia has seen to date. 
    Monday 2nd of October 2017 07:10:00 AM
  • Kanagawa Tourism at Matta Fair
    If you did not already know, Kanagawa prefecture is one of the up and coming destinations in Japan to visit for 2018. This is because it is located closest to Tokyo and is one of the very interesting places in Japan which many do not know about. When you talk about Japan, most people will tell you about Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hokkaido or Nagoya as places they have visited. But very few will tell you to go to Kanagawa, and sometimes we wonder why. Could it be that there is not enough information about this prefecture? In this article, I am going to share with you about the information on Kanagawa and it's interesting p laces to visit. At the last Matta Fair 2017, Kanagawa Tourism was present at the Japan booth and providing much information about the many places around here.The beautiful & vibrant city of Yokohama, photo by www.yokoosojapan.comWhere is Kanagawa? Located in the Southern Kanto Region, Kanagawa is part of the greater Tokyo region and the capital city is Yokohama. It only takes about half an hour train ride from Tokyo and can be visited on a day trip. It is also well known for the areas of Hakone and Kamakura, which are popular tourist destinations. Kanagawa boasts of multiple tourist attractions and sites, and the best option for visitors here is to spend a few nights in Yokohama. This will allow you to explore the prefecture without having to travel far.Alternatively you can also stay at Odawara city, which is around half hour from Tokyo via the Shinkansen bullet train. Odawara is much closer to Mount Fuji and Hakone which makes travel a little easier.The pirate ship cruise at Lake Ashi with Mt.Fuji view.What to do in Kanagawa?You will be surprised with the amount of things that you can do in the Kanagawa region. The most popular is visiting Mount Fuji, the icon of Japan. But exploring further will open up other unique and interesting places in Kanagawa. If you love the outdoors, then Kanagawa is the place to check out. Other places of interest include Hakone, home to many Buddhist and Shinto shrines and rich with traditional Japanese culture. Odawara is also well known for the traditional Japanese castles and Lake Ashi is known for the ship cruises with amazing views. Below is a list of things to do in Kanagawa.A different view of Mount Fuji in Kanagawa, rarely seen in photos.1. Get the Best View of Mount Fuji Mount Fuji is located about two hours from Odawara city and the most popular mountain in the entire Japan, and if you want to see the best view of Mount Fuji, I recommend you visit Hakone for this.Many travelers either stay around the Mount Fuji area in traditional homestays or Ryokan's to experience this in the winter or spring. Another popular choice is staying at one of the Onsen or traditional Japanese hot spring resorts in Hakone.Yokohama City at night with the beautiful lights. Photo by www.ietf.org.2. Explore Yokohama The closest large city to Tokyo and only 30 minutes by train is Yokohama city, which is also the second largest city in Japan. There is so much to see and do in Yokohama, I can't even list them down. But the popular places include Yokohama Chinatown (One of the largest in the world), and Yamashita Park for it's natural beauty which is perfect for nature lovers.Other places include the Red Brick Warehouse Park, Isezakich? and Noge for fusion and lifestyle food lovers, Motomachi shopping area, Minato Mirai 21 harbourside, Queen's Square Yokohama and Shin-Yokohama district where you can find the famous Ramen museum.Odawara Castle sunset. Photo by Agustin Rafael Reyes3. Visit the Western Area of KanagawaLocated in the western area of Kanagawa, this place is home to the Odawara Castle, one of the important castles of Japan built in the mid 15th century, which was also the entrance city to Hakone. Odawara is also best visited in Autumn as the natural landscapes provide a very Japanese autumn experience.Nature lovers will find the Kanagawa area very interesting too. For those into seaside or even scuba diving, visit Enoura town as it is well known for this sport. For Onsen lovers, visit Tenzan Onsen which is one of the recommended Japanese hot springs in Odawara. You will also find that the Fuji-Hakone Izu National Park has some amazing scenery.The Great Buddha or Kamakura Daibutsu, one of the main attractions in Kamakura4. Cultural KamakuraIf you love all things Japanese temples and shrines, Kamakura is the place to visit. This 800 year old historical city sits by the southern Japan coast and was once the Shogunate capital of Japan. You can also find over 20 Buddhist and Shinto shrines throughout Kamakura where Kamakura Daibutsu is one of the most famous.Another reason why many people visit Kamakura is because there are many traditional Japanese festivals and events held here. This small town is recommended for anyone wanting something laid back and different.The Fujiko F. Fujio Museum in Kawasaki is also known as the Doraemon museum5. Visit the Doraemon Museum in KawasakiFor the Doraemon fans, this is the home of Doraemon, a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Fujiko F. Fujio. The museum is called the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum, but commonly known to everyone as the Doraemon Museum.If you are staying in Yokohama, it takes only one hour to get here via train. Every Malaysian or Southeast Asian would know Doraemon and this is the ultimate visit to the home of the cute Japanese little blue cat.The famous Hakone Shrine or Hakone Jinja at Lake Ashi. Photo by www.linaka.co.uk.6. Japanese Shrine in Lake AshiLake Ashi is one of the most popular Japanese lakes and is located in the Hakone area of Kanagawa. People come here to see the famous red Hakone shrine or Hakone Jinja on the lake, and also to get that Instagram or Facebook photo too.From this lake, you can also get some of the best photos of Mount Fuji in the background, different from the ones you usually see. There are also sightseeing cruises  along this lake and a lot of nature activities to do here.View of Mount Fuji from an Onsen in Hakone7. Try the Hakone OnsenHakone is a small town, which is a gateway to Mount Fuji and Lake Ashi, and is also designated as a Geopark by UNESCO. But what people come here for is usually the famous traditional Japanese hot springs or Onsen.No doubt that Onsen's are found all over Japan, Hakone is probably one of the main areas for Onsen as there are many found here, ranging from Ryokan to Resorts. One of the main reasons is the hot spring waters and the impeccable views of Mount Fuji in the background.One of the hot springs in HakoneKanagawa, your next destination in JapanThe above are just some of the places in Kanagawa that you can explore, as there are many more untouched or non-commercialized areas worth visiting. For more information on Kanagawa, you can also check out the Kanagawa Prefectural Government website.Hopefully Kanagawa Tourism will be at the next Matta Fair 2018 in March or September. This all depends, and if there are more people visiting Kanagawa from now till then, chances are they may participate.To be honest, this is the best place to get first hand information on Kanagawa and its surroundings. 
    Saturday 30th of September 2017 06:48:00 AM
  • Kuala Lumpur No.8 Most Visited City In The World 2017
    A number of international media portals recently publish the MasterCard Global Cities Index for the 30 most visited cities in the world for 2017 and Kuala Lumpur came in at number 8 in the list. This is amazing news for Malaysia as the country has been working really hard to get the tourism numbers up over the years. Being in the top 10 is truly an achievement for Malaysia as the 2017 Global Destination Cities Index, provides a ranking of the 132 most visited cities around the world, done by MasterCard. This is also done on a yearly basis, and cities or countries work very hard to get listed here. Kuala Lumpur in Top 10 Most Visited City in the WorldTime.com however listed Kuala Lumpur as No.9 in the list with 12.1 million international visitors in 2017. But when you see further below, CNN and other international publications lists Kuala Lumpur as No.8 in their list. Anyway, being in the top 10 is better than nothing. List of the top 30 most visited cities in the world for 2017.1. Bangkok, Thailand ? 20.2 million international visitors.2. London, UK ? 20 million international visitors.3. Paris, France ? 16.1 million international visitors.4. Dubai, UAE ? 16 million international visitors.5. Singapore ? 13.45 million international visitors.6. Tokyo, Japan ? 12.5 million international visitors.7. Seoul, South Korea ? 12.44 million international visitors.8. New York, USA ? 12.4 million international visitors.9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ? 12.1 million international visitors.10. Hong Kong ? 9.25 million international visitors.11. Istanbul, Turkey ? 9.24 million international visitors.12. Barcelona, Spain ? 8.9 million international visitors.13. Amsterdam, Netherlands ? 8.7 million international visitors.14. Milan, Italy ? 8.4 million international visitors.15. Osaka, Japan ? 7.9 million international visitors.16. Taipei, Taiwan ? 7.8 million international visitors.17. Rome, Italy ? 7.3 million international visitors.18. Shanghai, China ? 6.65 million international visitors.19. Vienna, Austria ? 6.63 million international visitors.20. Prague, Czech Republic ? 6.4 million international visitors.21. Miami, USA ? 6 million international visitors.22. Los Angeles, USA ? 5.8 million international visitors.23. Chennai, India ? 5.7 million international visitors.24. Dublin, Ireland ? 5.59 million international visitors.25. Madrid, Spain ? 5.5 million international visitors.26. Munich, Germany ? 5.4 million international visitors.27. Mumbai, India ? 5.35 million international visitors.28. Toronto, Canada ? 5.3 million international visitors.29. Berlin, Germany ? 5.1 million international visitors.30. Johannesburg, South Africa ? 4.8 million international visitors.View of Kuala Lumpur city taken from the Petronas Twin TowersCNN also issued a 10 Most Popular Cities For International Travel, listed Kuala Lumpur as number eight in the list. Being in the top 10 is a big thing for Malaysia, as we are known to publicize this as part of our tourism statistics. The list is;Top 10 destination cities for 20171. Bangkok, Thailand -- 19.41 million visitors in 2016 (20.19 million forecast for 2017)2. London, England -- 19.06 million visitors in 2016 (20.01 million forecast for 2017)3. Paris, France -- 15.45 million visitors in 2016 (16.13 million forecast for 2017)4. Dubai, UAE -- 14.87 million visitors in 2016 (16.01 million forecast for 2017)5. Singapore -- 13.11 million visitors in 2016 (13.45 million forecast for 2017)6. New York, USA -- 12.70 million visitors in 2016 (12.36 million forecast for 2017)7. Seoul, South Korea -- 12.39 million visitors in 2016 (12.44 million forecast for 2017)8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- 11.28 million visitors in 2016 (12.08 million forecast for 2017)9. Tokyo, Japan -- 11.15 million visitors in 2016 (12.51 million forecast for 2017)10. Istanbul, Turkey -- 9.16 million visitors in 2016 (9.24 million forecast for 2017)Forbes also published the World's Top 10 Visited Cities for 2017, and Kuala Lumpur was ranked number eight in that lost too. I think, in general, all the big media names have re-published this news as I saw many articles related to this. How it impacts the tourism industry, is a good question. Will this help increase or maintain the tourism numbers is all up to the tourist. At the end of the day, the tourism boards mission is to heavily promote the country or city to the would be traveler. Each countries tourism board has their own method and objective in doing so. As for Malaysia, we have been aggressively promoting tourism for many years, and been through hard times and controversial times, like the MH370 fiasco, which saw a massive drop in visitors from China and many other countries. In recent years, tourism budgets in Malaysia have been drastically cut, but the main aim of luring local, regional and East Asian tourist has been high on the agenda. The number one tourist are still coming from China till this very day and is still being pursued by many local tourism boards.You can also find out the statistics of tourist arrivals to Malaysia from 2005 to 2016, which also shares which countries visited the most. Bad tourism practices went viral and spotted in Sabah (Photo by www.asiancorrespondent.com)OverTourism in Malaysia? With the number of China tourist coming into Malaysia, some popular areas are facing overtourism, which is still not discussed by the local industry players. Eventually, it can become a problem, but very little is done to avoid this. One of the areas in Malaysia affected by overtourism is at Mabul Island, in the east coast of Sabah Borneo. Steps need to be implemented as many other international tourist are now avoiding places that have overtourism due to many factors. But if no one looks into this issue on a more serious note, it will eventually become a problem like some other countries. An example of OvertourismMalaysia is still considered not fully developed overall, well if you look outside of the major cities, there is so much more to do in terms of infrastructure, proper tourist guides and other related matters. Most of these places depend strongly on tourism and anything goes in most cases. OverTourism is still an unknown word in Malaysia, simply because of tourism dollars, industry players just want to fill planes, buses and hotels. A common practise in Asian businesses, without looking or considering the long term effects. As I write about OverTourism in Malaysia, it is purely to highlight this potential matter that could happen, or is happening at certain areas. I truly hope the local tourism boards and industry players take note of this as we still would like to be listed in the most visited cities in the world in future. 
    Thursday 28th of September 2017 07:05:00 AM
  • Raja Ampat Marine Park Permit
    Where to you buy the Raja Ampat Marine Park permit? For any visitor to Raja Ampat, you must obtain this  marine park permit before entering Waisai. This means, when you arrive in Sorong, you need to find the Raja Ampat Conservation & Tourism Information Center which is located opposite the Sorong airport access road. It is also best to also ask the airport help counter where exactly is this office. It is mandatory that you obtain the Raja Ampat Marine Park Permit or PIN before you get into Waisai.There are marine park officers at the ferry terminal, and when they see visitors, local or foreigners, they will ask you for the PIN or the marine park permit. If you do not have one, then they will not allow you to board the ferry or boat.The local PIN and badge for Raja Ampat (Photo credit to Deddy Huang)Where to buy Raja Ampat Marine Park PermitFor travelers or scuba divers heading to Raja Ampat, you need to obtain this. There are a few places where you can buy the permit and they are located in the airport area or port area.The best way to buy the marine park permit is by paying in Indonesian Rupiah at the office in Sorong or at Waisai Port. Make sure you find the right office for this. When you buy the permit, you need to provide your passport or identification card to the officer.The Raja Ampat Marine Park permit price;International Travelers - IDR 1,000,000 (USD$100.00) per personIndonesian Travelers - IDR 500,000 (USD$50.00) per personChildren under 12 years old - FreeValidity: 12 months (1 Year)Sorong Tourism Information Center via;Tel: +62951328358Fax: +62951326576Mobile: +628114852033email: info.blud.uptdr4@gmail.comTourist Information Centre Waisai PortOpen: 8.00 AM to 4.00 PM (Mon-Thurs)Open: 8.00 AM to 3.00 PM (Fridays)Closed Sat & Sun (Except for 30 minutes when ferry arrives at port)Waisai Marinda Airport CounterPlease double check with the airport staff on where the counter is located.This is something new in 2017, as previously you could not. Raja Ampat PIN or Marine Park Permit PhotosBelow are photos of the marine park entry or PIN for local Indonesian and also international visitors. The photos show the front and the back of the entry cards and are from the official ministry website. The permit for International travelersBack of the international permitThe permit for IndonesiansBack of the local permitRaja Ampat Environmental Service Fee You can get more information from the official Raja Ampat Marine Protected Areas website. You can find all the reasons and other information for this marine park permit in English and Bahasa Indonesia. Previously, a round plastic token or permit badge was used as the identification for the PIN, but they changed it into a card system in 2017. So expect to get a credit card sized permit, which you can keep in your wallet or purse. If you still have the previous plastic permit token or badge for Raja Ampat, it is valid till the 31st December 2017. So, you can still use it if you are coming back. After that, you need to get the new one. During my dive trip to Raja Ampat, my permit was organised by my group leader, and they took care of everything. So, I did not have to worry when I was at the port before heading into the dive resort here. The Raja Ampat permit price information as of Sept 2017For first timers wondering how to get here, you may also want to read about my article on traveling to Raja Ampat where I disclose the various ways for transportation, and also the best way to get there. If you are going on an organised group, your leader should know about this entry permit. And it is always best to check with him or her about this permit before entering Raja Ampat in West Papua.When you get the permit, they will issue you with a card, and the validity of the permit is for 12 months or one year. Honestly, unless you are a regular visitor to Raja Ampat, this would be very worthwhile. I really do not know what will happen if you do not have the permit. Perhaps, they charge you double or maybe just do not allow you to go in? Well, I would not take the chance, so please, I repeat, please get your Raja Ampat Marine Park Permit at Sorong before you go to Waisai or your final destination. 
    Tuesday 26th of September 2017 03:43:00 AM
  • How to go to Raja Ampat
    Probably one of the frequent questions from a number of travelers is how to go to Raja Ampat in West Papua, Indonesia. Having visited here for my first time in September 2017, I decided to write this article to share what information I obtained from my recent trip to Raja Ampat. First of all, where is Raja Ampat? Well, if you heard of the exotic island of Papua, Raja Ampat is located on the Indonesian side of Papua, which is known as West Papua, and is an island located towards the North West side. In a summary, the best way to go to Raja Ampat is;1. Flight from Makassar, Jakarta or Manado to Sorong, West Papua2. Ferry from Sorong to Waisai3. Ferry from Waisai to Raja AmpatWhere is Raja Ampat? The map above shows that it is in the far east of IndonesiaHow to get to Raja Ampat in West PapuaGenerally, there are a number of ways to travel to Raja Ampat, and I will list them down for the convenience of the different types of travelers. The fastest and most easiest way would be by flying there and the longest way would be taking a boat or ferry there.Below are various ways to travel to Raja Ampat, so please consider all your options before you decide on the best way to get here. The Domine Eduard Osok airport in Sorong, West PapuaCurrently, Wings Abadi Airlines flies the Sorong to Waisai routeFlying to Raja AmpatYour connecting city to catch a direct flight into West Papua would be the city of Makassar in Sulawesi, Indonesia. This means, you need to fly from Jakarta or Bali into Makassar. From here, there is a direct flight all the way to Sorong in West Papua. The airport in Sorong is called Domine Eduard Osok (Airport code: SOQ), and is quite modern with up to date facilities. There are cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and a foot massage located just before the main departure hall. From Sorong, you have two options to get to Wai Sai, which is the main island to Raja Ampat on the west of Papua Indonesia. From Waisai, you can either fly or take the fast boat to Raja Ampat.Garuda Airlines flies only from  Makassar to Sorong in West PapuaAirline that fly to Raja AmpatFrom Jakarta To Sorong, West Papua - 4 Hour Direct FlightAirlines: Batik AirPT Nam Air Wings Abadi Air (1 Stop)From Makassar to Sorong, West Papua - 2 Hour 10 Minutes FlightAirlines:Batik AirSriwijaya AirGaruda AirlinesLion Air (1 Stop)Flight from Manado to Sorong, West Papua - 1 Hour 15 minutes FlightAirlines:Lion AirPT Nam AirGaruda Airlines Batik Air (1 Stop)Sriwijaya Air (1 Stop)Denpasar (Bali) to Sorong, West Papua - 8 Hour + Flight (Transit)This is only recommended for those who are already in Bali. But take note that you must fly to Makassar for your connections to Sorong and Raja Ampat. Please monitor the flight timings, as if there is a delay, and you miss your flight, the next flight is the following day.For those coming out of Indonesia, I do not recommend flying  to Bali then to Raja Ampat. It will be a little tricky. It is better to fly to the above mentioned cities and then to Raja Ampat. For my trip, what my group did was we took the late morning flight and put up a night at the Makassar Novotel Hotel located in the airport. The following morning, we caught the Sorong flight, so we were relaxed and not in a rush.View of Sorong from the aircraft landingHow to get from Sorong to Raja AmpatOnce you arrive in Sorong, you have two main options to travel to Raja Ampat. Depending on your time and budget, I will list both ways down as I have tried them both on my recent trip in September 2017. 1. Flight from Sorong to WaiSai (Marinda Raja Ampat Airport RJM)This is the fastest option and it takes only 30 minutes flight to Raja Ampat, but can cost you easily around US$25-$30 one way. The window between you connecting flight from Makassar or Jakarta needs to be observed, as sometimes delays could cost you to miss your flight. The only airline that flies this route is Wings Air and once a day at 1.45 PM. The plane they use is an ART-72, meaning only 72 passengers for one flight. Sometimes, there can be minor delays, like waiting for the connecting flight to land, or weather conditions.The fast boat from Sorong to Waisai, Raja Ampat2. Fast Boat or Ferry from Sorong to Waisai, Raja AmpatThis is the most common way that everyone uses. It is much cheaper and efficient, but takes about two hours boat ride. Once you arrive in Sorong, you need to take a 15 minute taxi ride to the Sorong Harbour and then catch the ferry to Raja Ampat in Waisai Island. There are a few ferry companies that operate this route, but I would recommend using Bahari Express  ferry to Raja Ampat as they are the most reliable. The Bahari Ferry Timetable for 2017 is;Daily - 2.00 PM Mon, Wed, Friday - 9.00 AM & 2.00 PMTime: 2.5 Hours JourneyNormal Ticket: IDR 130,000 per personVIP Ticket: IDR 220,000 per person (Recommended)Go a little earlyDoes not operate of Indonesian public holidays (Please check with them)You should also know that the times may change a little, and prices may change over time. So if you plan to use the ferry both ways, you need to buy your return ticket from the Waisai Harbour or Port. They have a ticket counter at the port.This is Bahari Express, the most popular way to get to Raja Ampat from SorongSome of the types of private speed boats in Raja Ampat Private Speedboat from Sorong to Raja AmpatThis is the most expensive way. However, if all fails and you have no other option, a private chartered speedboat can cost you easily around USD $600 to USD $1000 per boat from Sorong to Waisai.This also depends on the engine size, so for the well heeled or those strapped for time, this would be a quicker way to get directly to your dive resort in Raja Ampat. How to go from Waisai to Raja Ampat From the Raja Ampat Airport in Waisai, you can take a taxi to the Waisai Harbor or Port where you can catch your arranged resort boat, which usually comes and picks you up. You need to inform the resort on your arrival as it may take 10 to 20 minutes boat ride to and from the resort. This also depends on which resort you are booked at. The closer resorts take only five to ten minutes, while further resorts may take 10 to even 45 minutes. I highly recommend that you arrange for this part of the final travel to your homestay or resort. Raja Ampat in West Papua, IndonesiaThe very small Marinda Airport or Raja Ampat Airport in Waisai, West PapuaBest and Fastest Way to get to Raja AmpatHonestly, due to no direct flights to Raja Ampat, everyone needs to do at least one transit and one boat ride to get here. There is no short cut for this. I have spoken to many locals, and everyone says that the best connecting city is still Makassar.Perhaps in the future, they may eventually have a direct flight, but I doubt it. Unless they revamp and renovate the Raja Ampat airport in Waisai, larger planes will be able to land here. Currently, only the Wings Abadi ATR-72 propeller planes land here.Passengers at the Sorong port in West PapuaBahari Express fast boat ticket counter at Waisai Harbour in West PapuaRaja Ampat Marine Park Entry For Visitors For those of you heading here, please do not forget that every tourist, local or foreign visiting here requires a special marine park permit or Raja Ampat PIN. I have written about it, and you can find the information on how to get the Raja Ampat Marine Park Permit from Sorong or Waisai. This is something that many people are unaware about, until they reach the harbour area. Some of the locals or ticket counters may ask you if you have got the permit. So, please take note that this is mandatory for anyone visiting Raja Ampat.The permit fees for international travelers is IDR 1,000,000 and for local Indonesians, it is IRD 500,000. The fees collected goes directly to the conservation of the Raja Ampat Marine Park and is managed by the ministry here. There are no third parties that sell the permits.The Raja Ampat Marine Park entrance permit feesAs Raja Ampat is one of the desired destinations for many travelers, this information provides valuable up to date details on how to get here. Over the years, much of the information has been changed over and over, hence this was obtained in September of 2017, which is very recent.Many scuba divers are now planning to visit here as well, and if you are one of them, you can check out this article on this best guide for scuba diving in Indonesia which covers most of the popular places.One of the most iconic places to visit in Raja Ampat is also Piaynemo, a beautiful island karst that sits in a lagoon. The view from the top of the hill makes this place one of the must visit places here. I have also written an article on how to get to Piaynemo when you are here. The above was compiled by David Hogan Jr of Malaysia Asia, on how to go to Raja Ampat based on my actual experiences traveling here. This incredible trip was made possible with Indonesia Tourism on the 2017 Trip of Wonders Adventure and Dive Campaign. 
    Thursday 21st of September 2017 07:06:00 AM
  • How to go to Piaynemo Island
    Among some of the most beautiful places in Indonesia, Piaynemo Island is one of them and located in Raja Ampat, West Papua. This article shares information on how to go to Piaynemo Island, when you are in Raja Ampat. Piaynemo is probably the most prominent photo that you see online and in advertisements when you look for information. This collection of small island in a lagoon is world famous and one of the must-visit places in Indonesia. To get here, it is no easy task, as the boat charter or trip will cost you quite a bit. So, for single or couple travelers, you need to book the trip to Piaynemo from your resort where you are staying. Usually, you will go in a group with others as it is more practical to do this.The incredible view of Piaynemo from the viewing deckGetting to Piaynemo IslandIf you plan to charter a boat for just yourself or as a couple, you need to prepare to pay a lot of money for this. Boats rental can cost anywhere from USD$300 to USD600. Piaynemo is located about one to one and a half hours boat ride from the popular resort area of Raja Ampat. The further you stay, the more it will cost. Sometimes, the resorts may join venture with other resorts to send guests to Piaynemo Island.The welcome sign that you see before hiking up to the view point of PiaynemoPianemo, Pianemu or Piaynemo? While both are often used among the locals, the name is pronounced the same as some call it Pianemo, Pianemu or even Piaynemo. Also, there is little or no information found on Wikipedia or other websites about this beautiful rock islets that stick out of the blue turquoise waters in a bay.The Pianemu Karst is a natural heritage site of West Papua, and dates back to over 15 million years ago. The limestone karst are formed from sedimentation in the last 10 million years, creating thePiaynemo Karst formations that we see today. To be honest, I tried my best to obtain any information I could, but the locals there have very little knowledge on this amazing view point. However, once you are up top, you will be mesmerised by the incredible beauty that is postcard perfect, especially on a clear morning.How to get the beautiful view of Piaynemo? Boat charters will bring you into the lagoon area of the rock islets and drop you at the one and only jetty here. There are a few local stalls that sell drinks and souvenirs, operated by the locals.At the jetty, there are two wooden walkways that lead up the island, with thick trees covering the canopy. The steps lead all the way up to the main view point of Piaynemo Island.The start of the hike up to the Piaynemo view pointIt is a steep climb, one way up and another way down. So, this place is not disable friendly or kind to the unhealthy ones. If you are short of breath, please take your time to go up. There are a couple of rest stops along the way up to the view point. Once you reach the final flight of stairs, your exhaustion and sufferings will vanish into thin air. Why? Because, the natural beauty from the view point of Piaynemo will blow you away. I am not kidding, as I took longer than usual to make my way up the stairs, and when I reach the view deck, I was in awe, just looking and the incredible view of Piaynemo. At one section to the left, there is a short staircase down to a special wooden deck where everyone takes that epic Piaynemo photo. I kid you not, that is indeed the best place for your portrait shot with the rock islets popping out of the water below. On the right, there is another viewing deck, but the gate is sometimes closed. This viewing deck is not as beautiful as the one of the left. Anyway, once you are up there, you can explore both to see which you prefer.The wooden stairs leading up to the Pianemu view point. Note the steep climb up.Please go early to avoid the crowds, as mentioned below. Also, do not sit or stand on the wooden railings there, as it is dangerous. There are some basic information of geology of this place, which was faded. A small covered area with a bench is also available for those who want to avoid the sun up here. In general, I spent about two hours up there, before making my way down to the waiting boat at the jetty. Most visitors wear slippers or simply go barefoot up. However, on a hot day, the floor can get really hot. Best to bring along a pair of walking or hiking shoes along. Also bring water if you dehydrate easily. Here's the epic moment - I see many people bringing their wardrobe up, all for the name of taking a beautiful shot, with their dress or sarong flying in the air. So, if you are a diva or want that epic Instagram photo up here, do bring you change of clothes and make up box along.A landscape photo of Piaynemo, taken with mu Oppo Smartphone. On the left is the famous viewing deck. Best time to visit PianemoThe best time to visit this place is in the mornings just before lunch. Reason for this is that the skies are really clear and sometimes, after lunch it can get cloudy, and after coming all the way here, you would not want a horrible photo of Pianemo.For photographers, it is recommended to come early, and for those wanting that epic Instagram photo of Piaynemo, you need to come early to avoid the crowd and also the heat. How much is it to visit Piaynemo? The golden question - Well, since my trip was arranged by Indonesia Tourism, I do not know the exact amount. But I did ask the organizer about the costs involved, and he told me that a boat charter from Waisai or the Raja Ampat resorts could cost anywhere from IRD 20 Million to 40 Million. One of the reasons for this is the long journey and fuel cost. Apparently, fuel is like gold in Raja Ampat, hence the high fees to get here. But as mentioned earlier, it is best to consult your resort about the cost per person or couple.If you do not visit this place when you are in Raja ampat, this is what you will be missingWhat if I don't Visit Piaynemo? Then you wasted your entire trip to Raja Ampat in West Papua. Piaynemo is the landmark of this place and is the most popular photo used in travel flyers. Whenever you see a tourism brochure on Raja Ampat, Piaynemo is bound to be one of the main photos. Also, you may save some money, but just don't tell your friends that you did not visit one of the most beautiful places in the world. They would probably kill you for that. So, my recommendation is to make that visit up here.When I visited Raja Ampat in early September 2017, I stayed at the Raja Ampat Dive Resort, which is really nice, cozy and very professional. For divers, or even non divers, I recommend staying at this resort. You have seen the photos I posted here, done with very little editing, because the natural beauty was good enough. For anyone visiting Raja Ampat, I hope this article on hoe to go to Piaynemo will provide you with the right information needed. Have a great trip and if you have questions, please ask below. 
    Monday 18th of September 2017 07:23:00 AM
  • Takpala Village on Alor Island
    On a recent visit to East Nusa Tenggara, I was fortunate to have visited the Takpala Village on Alor Island, which is one of the least visited places around this region. Having little knowledge on the Alornese, this was a very interesting eye opener for me. Takpala Village sits in in the hills of Alor, which is around 13 kilometers from the Kalabahi district, the main area of Alor Island. The people of Takpala are also known as the Abui tribe who is also the largest of the ethnic groups on the island. The Abui people are also known as the mountain people. In total, there are three main traditional villages, but Takpala is one of the easiest and best to visit in Alor Island. The Abui tribe at the foot of the village, welcoming visitorsVisiting Takpala VillageAs Alor is home to to over 40 different ethnic groups and speaking to the village headman, he said that there are over 60 languages and sub languages in Alor Island itself. That is incredible, considering how small the island is, and so many languages. However, on communication among themselves, they all speak one common language, which is Bahasa Indonesia. As our group was fairly large, they Abui people of Takpala had prepared a welcoming ritual at the foot of the village. Men and women, boys and girls were dressed in traditional Abui attire, and welcomed the group with some traditional words. Behind the headman, two other men had drums, and started to beat them as they walked uphill. The women danced as they led our entourage up to the entrance of the village. Once here, we could see over 30 to 40 other men and women who were waiting for us. In the background, thatched roof homes called Rumah Gedung stand majestically as a backdrop. Abui warriors perform a traditional ritual as part of the welcome ceremonyGedung means storage, and they call them store houses because this is where they store their food supplies such as rice, corn and others. In the middle of the village area, you see a round structure, looking like a place of ritual. This place is called the Mesbah, which is made from large stones. The Mesbah is the general communal area where meetings, dances and other important events are held by the Abui people. Once we were seated on bamboo chairs made for visitors, the headman called Pak Abner, started his ritual speech, welcoming us all to Takpala Village. Soon after, they started to perform the traditional dance, called the Lego Lego dance. This harvest dance is performed by the Abui women and men, by creating a circle around the Mesbah. Music is played by other men, while the women start moving around the Mesbah, hand in hand around each other. The Lego-Lego dance performed by the Abui tribe of AlorA rhythmic moment is observed by everyone, even the young girls who don the traditional attire. As the dance gets more intense, the Abui people move faster and faster in a circle. The women and girls have brass rings around their legs, therefore making it chime as them stomp their feet during the dance. Following the dance, the visitors are then invited to participate along with the locals in a merry and joyful atmosphere, but performing the same dance in a circle. After song and dance, photo sessions are a must. This is where you get your portrait photos of the Abui people in traditional attire. You can take their photos or even pose with them as they are extremely friendly. One thing you should note is that the Alornese people love to chew betel nut, hence their blood red mouths. This is a common thing practised around Alor Island and East Nusa Tenggara among the men and women. If you have questions about the people or the village, feel free to ask your translator to ask Pak Abner or any of the village elders. They would be glad to answer your questions. The Abui people are also Christians, so you will be seeing lots of crosses planted around the area. Usually indicated as markings, but I did not manage to ask why they were places along the road up and even in front of the village. Takpala Village PhotosBelow are some random photos taken at the Takpala Village on Alor Island. I spent about two hours here, watching, talking and learning what I could about this unique tribe from Alor. Abui children, some of them in traditional wearThe headman and village elders at Takpala villageOne of the Abui elder ladies plays a traditional drum soloBrass rings are used for Abui women, when they dance, the rings give out chimesAbui women performing the Lego-Lego dance in Takpala VillagePak Abner, the village headman strikes a warrior pose with his bow and arrowTakpala Village Souvenirs At the end of the performance and photo taking, you can visit the right section of the village where you will see the local Abui women selling various local handicraft made by them. There must have been around 10 makeshift stalls to browse through. Items include the local dried banana seeds which are made into bracelets and necklaces, combined with wooden pendants. Another type of wooden seeds made from the Kenari tree is also unique. They look like wooden prayer beads. Wild boar teeth infused into jewelry are also sold at slightly higher prices. However, this is one of the local income for the Abui people, hence I bought about five necklaces and three bracelets as souvenirs. At places like these, it is often good to contribute back to the community. Some stalls even sell hand crafted parangs (swords) and wooden shields. For those traveling internationally, I would advise against carrying them. But then again, if you are a serious sword collector, this would be awesome for your display. The sign just outside Takpala Village in AlorHow to go to Takpala VillageFor anyone planning to visit the Takpala village, you need to start from Kalabahi, and it takes around 30 minutes by car or van to get here. You also need to engage a guide or charter a taxi, and possible get one that speaks English, to translate. Once here, no one speaks any form of English, but Bahasa Indonesia or their local ethic language. You can easily spend around an hour here, talking to the locals or exploring their traditional homes. On the right section of the village, the local Abui people have makeshift stalls which sell homegrown souvenirs. Some of them are pretty cool, especially the banana seed necklaces and bracelets. This trip was part of the 2017 Trip of Wonders by Indonesia Tourism where we explored far East of Nusa Tenggara and Raja Ampat. It was purely an adventure and dive trip which introduced us to these amazing places in Indonesia. 
    Thursday 14th of September 2017 10:56:00 AM
  • Tourism Malaysia Awards 2017
    The Tourism Malaysia Awards 2017 will take place in early 2018, and this is also the 20th year that the prestigious awards are being held here in Malaysia. Tourism Minister YB Dato' Seri Mohamed Nazri made the announcement on the 7th September about the news. The announcement was to call for nominations as every two years, the tourism industry, its players and those promoting Malaysia as a tourist destination will be recognised by receiving the highest awards in Malaysia. Tourism Malaysia Awards 2016/2017 These prestigious tourism awards are a way to acknowledge and recognise those who have contributed and worked hard to up the tourism standards of Malaysia. Nominations are submitted and a panel of highly qualified judges then select the deserving winners for the awards. The Tourism Malaysia Awards also recognises and honours local and international tourism industry players for outstanding and innovative products and services. It also acts as an incentive for participants to strive for the highest level of professionalism and quality in both products and services in Malaysia.Media Category Winners for the previous Tourism Malaysia AwardsTourism Malaysia Awards CategoriesIn total, there are 14 categories for the awards which some of them have sub-categories as listed below. 1. Best Local Tour OperatorInbound Tour OperatorDomestic Tour Operator2. Best Foreign Tour OperatorSoutheast Asia MarketSouth Asia and West Asia MarketEast Asia and North Asia MarketAmericas, Europe and Oceania Market3. Best Tourism Article3a. Printed PublicationLocal PublicationInternational Publication3b. OnlineLocalInternational4. Best Travel Documentary and TV Commercial on MalaysiaDocumentaryTV Commercial5. Best Tourist AttractionNatural Attraction / Eco-Tourism / Agro-TourismMan-Made Attraction ? Theme ParkMan-Made Attraction ? Arts & Culture Attraction6. Most Innovative Tour PackageOff-the-Beaten TrackSpecial Interest7. Best Hotel Services5-star (city)5-star (resort)4-star (city)4-star (resort)3-star (city)3-star (resort)NBOS Fresh Air resortBoutique Hotel8. Best Tourist GuideCity GuideNature Guide9. Best Shopping CentreIntegrated Shopping CentreStand-Alone Shopping Centre10. Best Homestay11. Best SpaBest Spa (Hotel/Resort)Best Spa (Individual Premise)12. Innovative RestaurantMalayChineseIndianEthnicInternational13. Best Entertainment Spot14. Best AirlineDomesticInternationalCharterTwo new categories were introduced for this edition of the Malaysia Tourism Awards, namely, ?Best Entertainment Spot? and ?Best Airline? to acknowledge the private sector effort in accomplishing the Tourism NKEA objectives of establishing a ?Dedicated Entertainment Zone (DEZ)? and enhancing connectivity from medium-haul markets to capitalise on the high-yield tourism market.The ?Best Travel Documentary on Malaysia? category has been revamped to ?Best Travel Documentary and TV Commercial on Malaysia? while ?Best Tourism Article? will focus on articles on Malaysia in both printed and online media by local and foreign writers.The Tourism Malaysia Awards Media Category WinnersWhen is the Tourism Malaysia Awards 2017?Date: January 2018Venue: Kuala LumpurTime: 6.00 PMWebsite: http://awards.tourism.gov.myThis awards are the highest awards that is given by the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia, and is the most recognised awards in the travel and tourism industry of Malaysia. You can also read my article on the last Tourism Malaysia Awards 2014/2015. For more information, please visit the official Tourism Malaysia Awards website, where you can also see past winners and other information is available. If you are in the tourism industry, see you at the Tourism Malaysia Awards 2017, as I hope to be submitting some of my work done in the last couple of years promoting Malaysia. 
    Wednesday 13th of September 2017 09:36:00 AM

Malaysia Asia Stats

Daily Unique PVs Total PVs Unique In Total In Unique Out Total Out
Average 0.4 0.4 0.0 0.0 0.4 0.4
Today 1 1 0 0 1 1
Yesterday 0 0 0 0 1 1
November 15 0 0 0 0 0 0
November 14 0 0 0 0 1 1
November 13 1 1 0 0 0 0
November 12 1 1 0 0 0 0
November 11 0 0 0 0 1 1
November 10 0 0 0 0 0 0
November 09 0 0 0 0 0 0
November 08 1 1 0 0 0 0
Highest 5 5 0 0 4 64
Weekly Unique PVs Total PVs Unique In Total In Unique Out Total Out
Average 1.5 1.6 0.0 0.0 1.9 1.9
This Week 2 2 0 0 3 3
Last Week 3 3 0 0 2 2
Week 44 1 1 0 0 2 2
Week 43 0 0 0 0 1 1
Week 42 2 2 0 0 2 2
Week 41 1 1 0 0 1 1
Week 40 2 2 0 0 2 2
Week 39 1 1 0 0 3 3
Week 38 1 1 0 0 2 2
Week 37 2 3 0 0 1 1
Highest 8 9 0 0 9 66
Monthly Unique PVs Total PVs Unique In Total In Unique Out Total Out
Average 5.8 6.0 0.0 0.0 9.2 17.8
This Month 6 6 0 0 7 7
Last Month 5 5 0 0 6 6
September 17 9 10 0 0 8 8
August 17 6 7 0 0 9 9
July 17 6 6 0 0 5 5
June 17 6 6 0 0 11 71
May 17 4 4 0 0 7 7
April 17 6 6 0 0 11 11
March 17 4 4 0 0 9 34
February 17 6 6 0 0 19 20
Highest 20 20 0 0 19 71
Unique PVs Total PVs Unique In Total In Unique Out Total Out
Overall 538 564 0 0 260 357

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