Tuesday, 21 May 2013

# TSDayOut @ Subang Skypark

It’s #TSDayOut invite again! The invitation via email from Dian of Tourism Selangor was greatly anticipated. TSDay Out is a novel initiative by Tourism Selangor with the objective of promoting and publicising tourist products and attractions in Selangor. It is a half-day programme where selected members of the public and bloggers are invited to join in the outing. 

Hmmm... nice name badge.
The yellow line guides the passengers through the whole process.
Our visit this time around was the Subang Skypark, better known as Subang Terminal 3 Airport in the earlier days. After a massive redevelopment of the old airport was completed in 2008, this modern airport is now one of the most preferred airports amongst frequent travellers in Malaysia and also in the region. This is due to its close proximity to the cities of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam and easy accessibility via the existing road and highway networks. Skypark is also home to Firefly and Berjaya Air, and very soon to Malindo Air as well.

There's kopitiam - for those who prefer local delicacies.
Visitors to Skypark are spoilt for choices when it comes to the selection of good cafes.
A Firefly Sales Office at Skypark.
TSDayOut @ Skypark participants consist of 30 active bloggers. I felt honoured to be selected as I considered myself a newbie in the blogging scene. After the registration, we were given a yellow #TSDayOut t-shirt and also a nice black baseball cap complimentary of Skypark. Mr Francis Anthony, the Head of Operations, Skypark was there to welcome us and after a short speech, we started our tour of the airport with Mr Rusdi of Firefly as the tour guide. During the tour, he explained to us briefly about Firefly, the types of aircrafts (only turboprops) that are allowed to use the airport and the whole process of passenger check-ins until they board the planes, the passenger check-outs until they collect their luggage, and the behind-the-scenes activities that take place in the operations. 

Rows of trolleys at the baggage collection area.
The ever smiling Firefly beauties.
Nothing escapes the X-Ray scanner.
The Firefly personnel which handle all the flight operations.
Thumbs up and ready to go!
Firefly personnel loading the baggage onto the aircraft.
Thereafter, for the highlight of the programme, we were brought to SimFlightKL located at the first floor of Skypark. Apparently, SimFlightKL is the first company in Malaysia that offers the public or aspiring pilots the chance to experience the feeling of piloting a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 using a flight simulator. Qualified pilots and flight instructors were there to guide the budding pilots through every manuevres from take-off until the plane was safely landed. Along the way, we got to learn about the technical jargons and how to read and understand some of the important instruments, switches and gauges. The experience of sitting in the cockpit simulated by the HD panoramic display was really like the real thing and I strongly recommend every aspiring pilot to try this out. Oh, and price starts from as low as RM45!

Budding pilots in the Airbus A320 simulator.
The instrument panel in a Boeing 737 simulator
It was 1.30 pm when Renuga announced that it was time for lunch. Yes… after four hours of packed itinerary, we were to be served some heavenly food by Bubba Gump Shrimp Co at the luxurious and well facilitated Peugeot Lounge also located at first floor of Skypark. We were told by Mr. Yasser Awan, General Manager of Nasim Sdn Bhd, the distributor of Peugeot cars in Malaysia that the lounge is the first of its kind in the world that caters to privileged Peugeot car owners. All the Peugeot owners have to do is produce their boarding passes and car keys and they will get to enjoy the facilities provided at the lounge. Skypark must be very proud to be the airport of choice for Peugeot for their pilot project… and so will I, being a proud owner of a Peugeot ride myself.

Aspire to be a pilot? Start by reading these mags.
After the sumptuous lunch, there were short speeches delivered by Mr Francis Anthony of Skypark, Mr Azman of Firefly, Mr Yasser of Nasim and Mr Fazly of Tourism Selangor followed by a prize giving ceremony for best blogs for the previous TSDayOut and also best photography for TSDayOut Skypark. Congrats to all the winners!

There's a wide selection of attractive Peugeot merchandise for you to purchase.
Food, glorious food - at Peugeot Lounge, courtesy of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
The 6 hour excursion to Skypark was truly a different experience for me, and I think for most of the other participants as well. I look forward to the major extension project of Skypark to be ready in the next few years as well as the extra connectivity via the new KTM Komuter line. Once completed, we could expect Skypark to be the airport of choice for both travellers and non-travellers, in line with the company’s aspiration to synthesize aviation and lifestyle under one roof. Looking at their current facilities, world-class offerings and ongoing improvements, I believe Skypark is definitely ‘flying towards the right direction’.

For more information on Skypark, Firefly, SimFlightKL and Peugeot Lounge, please visit:

-        www.subangskypark.com
-          www.fireflyz.com.my
-          www.simflightkl.com
-          www.peugeot.com.my

For more information on #TSDayOut, please visit:

-          tsdayout.my

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

White Water Rafting at Padas River

“Morning Sir. This is the third wake up call” said the courteous voice over the other line. I looked at my watch and it was 4.45am. I have been ignoring the first two calls as I was quite tired, having slept quite late the night before. “Ok. I’m on my way down now” I said with a coarse, sleepy voice. The Media team (me included) was supposed to gather at the lobby of Hotel Promenade Kota Kinabalu, Sabah at 5.00am for our Padas River White Water Rafting event (5.00am? Oh no!).

We were soon in the bus heading towards Beaufort. It was still dark outside so some of us continue with their sleep while I chose to eat the packed breakfast prepared by the hotel which consists of a bun, an apple, an orange and a bottle of drinking water. We reached Beaufort Railway Station in less than two hours and were later told that the train that was scheduled to depart from the station at 7.32am will be 30 minutes late. That’s great because I have time to explore some part of the old Beaufort town.

The 'old n rustic' charm of Beaufort town (Photo credit: Ridhwan Baihaki)
I headed to a cluster of two storey wooden shophouses and saw a shop with a signage that says ‘Restoran Idaman 1’ (I wonder where Restoran Idaman 2 is). I figured that I need some extra carbo besides the meagre breakfast I had on the bus so I was looking forward to a set of roti bakar (toasted bread) or a plate of nasi lemak. Well, I was indeed lucky I walked into the old restaurant because right there on every table were plates of packed nasi lemak in banana leaf, ready to be eaten by a hungry wolf like me. I ordered a glass of hot tea and a short while later, a lady came with the tea and a small bowl of soup. I told the lady that I didn’t order the soup but she said it comes with the nasi lemak. This was the first time I ate nasi lemak with soup. I later learned that the locals here take soup with whatever rice meals they have. “It helps you to digest the food better” said Haji Yusuf, the owner of the restaurant. I bade ‘salam’ to Haji Yusuf after paying for the meal and headed back to the Railway Station, about 300 metres away.

The camera-shy Haji Yusuf, owner of Restoran Idaman 1.

The old restaurant seems to have a steady stream of regular customers 
(Photo credit: Ridhwan Baihaki)
The train to Tenom (the last station) took off at exactly 8.00am. It was an old diesel powered locomotive with four coaches-two passenger coaches and two cargo coaches. The train was packed and I was forced to stand in the cargo coach which I shared with a local family of three and their ‘baggage’ which, among other things, includes two bags of rice, a cooking gas cylinder and two live chickens! There, I befriended a middle-aged Russian couple, a thirty-something German couple and four Swedish teenagers who were also in the same cargo coach. The one and a half hour journey was nowhere near to comfort but none of the passengers seemed to be complaining. I was told that for most of the kampungs (villages) along the railroad, the train is the only means of transport to and from the towns, so it was common to see passengers getting off the train right in front of their houses. The train took us through several villages and secondary forests and after the third station, it was alongside the menacing-looking Padas River all the way until we reached Pangi station, where we disembarked from the train.

None of the passengers in the cargo coach seem to be complaining.
More than half of the train passengers turned out to be participants of the Padas River white water rafting. A group of about a dozen Koreans and few more from Lebanon, China, India and Singapore made up the rest of the numbers. We were divided into a few groups. My group and three others were briefed by a young instructor by the name of Ash. We were taught of the techniques, safety measures and the do’s and dont’s. Ash explained that the Padas River is Malaysia’s most popular water rafting destination and is one of the most challenging water rafting circuit in South East Asia. The difficulty level is class 3 and 4 and sometimes can go up to class 5 during the rainy season.

World class paddlers in action?
Soon after, all of us, complete with the water rafting gear, were seen paddling into the middle of the brownish river in seven inflatable rafts. We went through seven rapids with funny names. They are Merry Go Round, Head Hunter, Scooby Doo, Washing Machine, Cobra, Curve and Lambada, and some of them are really very fierce and nasty. The exhilaration started the moment we touched the water. Splashing water, controlled paddling and unexpected drops and turns are all packed in the adventurous 70 minutes Padas River raft ride experience.

A young beverage seller at a house near Rayoh station.
The 9km rafting journey ended at Rayoh station, where we had a shower, changed to fresh clothes and a good lunch before the next train to Beaufort picked us up about 2 hours later. We endured another one and a half hour back breaking train journey and, by the time we boarded our air-conditioned bus at the Beaufort station, the feeling was like ‘stepping into a super-luxury coach’, if you understand what I mean. Well, what happened in the bus during the one hour journey to our next destination was very hard to describe…. simply because I was fast and sound asleep, and I guess so was everyone else in the bus! LOL! Anyway, the Padas River white water rafting experience was simply ‘undescribable’, if there is such a word. So, if you are into water adventure but you haven’t been to Padas River, you haven’t really seen it yet.

For more information on tourism activities in Sabah, please visit: 

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Injin Puput-Passage to the Heart of Borneo.

An invitation for a trip to Sabah came as a great surprise to me, especially when I had to cancel my planned trip two years ago due to family commitment. Tourism Malaysia (as usual), in collaboration with Sabah Tourism Board has extended an invitation to the Media from Semenanjung Malaysia (West Malaysia) to attend the annual month-long Sabah Fest 2013. We took off from KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) in Sepang in a Malaysia Airlines aircraft 737 at 8.30am and touched down at the newly completed Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 10.45am. The flight was quite smooth and as usual, the food was good….so good that Ridhwan, my Media friend sitting next to me, asked for a second nasi lemak!

The newly completed Kota Kinabalu International Airport is a landmark by itself.

Hotel Promenade - The host for my five day trip to Sabah.
A panoramic sunset view from the promenade just across the hotel.

We were later sent to the Hotel Promenade, a nice city hotel fronting the seaside promenade and a short walking distance to the Handicraft Market and KK Waterfront. After some free and easy activities in the afternoon, we were told to gather at the hotel lobby at 6.30pm for our seafood dinner at a popular floating restaurant called Restoran Kampung Nelayan at Taman Tun Fuad, Bukit Padang, not far from Sabah Golf and Country Club. The food, needless to say, was superb. What looked like an extravagance of scrumptious dishes soon turned into a set of empty plates on the tables.

Crunchy garoupa. Mmmmm.....

Finally, for the main event of the evening, we were brought to JKKN Complex near Penampang, about 20 minutes drive from the restaurant. The complex would be hosting a three day cultural extravaganza from the 3-5 May and the highlight was a musical theatre titled “Injin Puput – Passage To The Heart Of Borneo”. Injin Puput is the local term for the old locomotive which used to provide the locals access in and out of the interior parts of Sabah. The story combines two folktales which chronicle the beliefs of an interior people, the Murut, on the advent of the railway in Sabah, and the reminiscences of a grandfather of the railroad. Presented in the form of a train journey, the information is conveyed through the story-telling style of an elder, a grandfather called Aki Arusap to his grandson, Aaron. 
The poster for 'Injin Puput'
The Opening Act begins with the perception of an old Murut warrior who had never seen a white man before. The warrior dreamt about the arrival of the British. He interpreted his vision as spirit beings descending from the sky, bringing with them a ferocious dragon that spat out orbs of fire from its mouth and threaten to destroy his people. The dragon turned out to be the train services which were progressively extended into the interior of Sabah. 

My complimentary ticket for the preview.
A scene from the opening act .
Aki Gounon and Mei Ling after they were solemnised as husband and wife.
The Kadazan Papar dancers performing their ethnic dance.  
The Second Act portrays the elder, Aki Arusap, train travelling with his young grandson, Aaron. The journey turned to be a nostalgic passage for Aki Arusap, as well as an educational one for Aaron. Aki recollected the tales of his father, Aki Gounon who was an assistant to a British railway engineer, and of his father’s encounter with his mother, a Chinese girl by the name of Mei Ling. In his recounting, he described the events that occurred along the railway line while his father was on duty on the railway line. All the events were portrayed in a brilliantly choreographed dance and music performances of the various ethnic cultural dances by the Bajau Putatan, the Kadazan Papar, the Bongawan Brunei, the Kadayan Beaufort and the Muruts. 

The grand finale of Injin Puput.
All in all, I have to say that ‘Injin Puput-Passage to the Heart of Borneo’ was indeed a dazzling performance, more so when I was later told that the majority of the dancers/performers are amateurs coming from the various districts along the railway line. Kudos to all the performers and the whole production and creative team members. Thank you so much to Tourism Malaysia and Sabah Tourism Board. Looking forward to your invitation to the Sabah Fest again next year!

For more information on Sabah Fest, please visit:  www.sabahfest.com

For more information on tourism activities in Sabah, please visit: 

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