Monday, 24 June 2013

Kelantan Food & Heritage Trail 2013 – Part 2

Entrance to Akademi Nik Rashiddin.
The bus journey from Kota Bharu to Bachok took us about 40 minutes, which was just enough for most of us to take a short nap. Our first stop was Akademi Nik Rashiddin at Kandis village, a one-stop resource centre on Malay woodcrafts. Cold Air Nira (Palm Wine) was served to quench our thirst on arrival. The proud owner-operator is Mrs Rosnawati, wife of the late Nik Rashiddin, a master woodcraft. The serene 6-acre property accommodates a wooden museum, a gallery and the family house. The museum was actually reconstructed from a 188 year old house which they bought from Kampung Ladang, Terengganu. Among the exhibits in the museum were various Malay wooden crafts and equipment that were used daily by farmers, fishermen and the common folks.

Mrs Rosnawati is an expert in the subject of traditional malay woodcraft.
The intricately designed bow of a Malay traditional boat.
One of the Keris on display. The ivory hilt was handcrafted by Nik Rashiddin.
The Gallery housed various types of keris’ hilts and sheaths handcrafted by the late master woodcraft himself. There were also a rostrum, a bed and the head and tail of a Gagak Sura, a royal ceremonial parade icon, all with their own intricately crafted designs. Mrs Rosnawati, herself a lecturer with the Creative Technology and Heritage Faculty at a local university, was ever willing to explain to us about the Malay woodcraft industry in general and of Nik Rashiddin’s tireless efforts to preserve and revive the heritage initiatives.

The directional signage was clearly visible from the main road.
A short distance away from Akademi Nik Rashiddin, lies a secluded boutique resort called Villa Danialla. We were so surprised to find a resort so charmingly built in this part of the tranquil village. The 74 room resort boasted of a private white sandy beach and a host of other amenities including a premium spa, infinity pool, horse ride and various beach activities. The owner, Dato Halimah Hamat, was hands-on when it comes to the day-to-day operations. She spoke to us about the resort’s humble beginnings and of its future plans. A short while later, buffet style ‘late afternoon meal’ was served and we wasted no time to savour the sumptuous looking dishes. The combo of the crispy murtabak and sweet and creamy ‘butir nangka’ was my favourite.

A very warm ambience welcomes every visitors to the resort.
Dato Halimah Hamat - The proud owner-operator of the resort.
The yummy sweet and creamy 'butir nangka'.
Dato Halimah then took us for a quick tour of the resort and its ample facilities. “All the facilities and services are provided without any extra charges” she said. “Guests will not feel privileged if we keep on billing them with all the small charges” she added. I couldn’t agree more with you Dato!. All the best to you!

The facade of the newly opened Tok Aman Bali Beach Resort.
We boarded our bus to our final destination of the day, Tok Aman Bali Beach Resort. Situated along the idyllic beach of Pantai Bisikan Bayu (Beach of Whispering Breeze) in the district of Pasir Puteh, the 100 room resort is the latest 5 star resort in Kelantan. Nestled amongst tall casuarina trees, the low rise resort offers each rooms with a lagoon facing balconies on one side and on the other side, a large swimming pool and its landscaped garden strategically located right in the middle as the centerpiece.

Every room has direct access to the pool, which is a short walking distance away.
We checked-in into our respective rooms as soon as we reach the resort. The room was nice and neat and it has a big balcony with a set of outdoor settee. There’s a big glass window wall separating the bathroom and the room and it came with a curtain, of course. The finishing and the fittings truly befitted that of a 5-star rating that was awarded to the resort. Well, I couldn’t wait to explore what else was offered. So, I decided to go out and check it out myself.

Paddleboats are popular among family guests.
En Kamal Azam of Tourism Malaysia trying out the KMX Kart tricycle,
one of the recreational facilities provided by the resort.
To start with, there were all types of cycling vehicles. We have bicycles for kids and adults, tandem bicycles (bicycle for two people) and the latest KMX Kart Tricycles! I had a spin in it and was thrilled by the performance and superb handling. Then, there were the boat rides, paddleboats and kayaks for those who wouldn’t mind some water splashing. 

...and some preferred to go kayaking.
The activity lined up for the media was collecting lokan (mangrove clams). We had to paddle to a small island in the middle of the lagoon and look for the exotic cockles. Armed with plastic bags braving the knee deep swamp and combing between the protruding mangrove roots, we eventually managed to collect about 3 kgs of lokans. Not bad for most first timers like us. The lokans ended up in the resort’s kitchen to be served as part of the dish for our grand garden dinner for the night. Hosted by the resort and graced by the General Manager himself, the steamboat dinner was accompanied by a very entertaining Wayang Kulit (Shadow Play) performance of a local troupe. Interestingly, the Tok Dalang (Master Puppeteer) was a Chinese. How interesting!

Not a bad catch for our friend here.
Anyway, it has been a very long day for all of us, and what else do you expect a bunch of worn out, full- bellied humans would do given some cozy, comfy and cushy beds in a 5-star resort? 

For more information on Kelantan and the places mentioned above, please visit: 


Monday, 17 June 2013

New Minister on a Sales Mission to Promote Malaysia.

The Honourable Dato’ Seri  Mohamed Nazri Tan Sri Aziz, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia is leading a sales mission to New Zealand and Australia to promote Malaysia as a premier travel destination.  The week-long working visit (15-22 June 2013) to Auckland, Melbourne and Perth is organised by Tourism Malaysia.

The Honourable Dato’ Seri  Mohamed Nazri Tan Sri Aziz,
The newly appointed Minister of Tourism and Culture, Malaysia.

Other members of the delegation include; Dato Mirza Mohammad Taiyab (Director General, Tourism Malaysia) and senior government officials and state tourism bodies. The Malaysian delegation comprised a hotel, theme park operators, Sepang International Circuit and tourism boards from three state governments namely the states of Penang, Selangor, Sabah, Sarawak and Langkawi Island. 

Media conferences will be held in Auckland, Melbourne and Perth followed by the Malaysia Truly Asia Evening dinner at the same hotel.

The objectives of the sales mission are to strengthen the presence of Malaysia in the Oceania market and to keep the Australian and New Zealand counterparts abreast of recent tourism developments in Malaysia including the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 campaign. During the sales mission, the delegation will hold meetings with local travel trade players in the respective cities.

The Malaysian tourism industry remains as robust as ever based on the buoyant tourist arrivals that Malaysia enjoyed in 2012, which registered a total of 25.03 million tourist arrivals compared to 24.7 million for the same period in 2011, thus indicating an increase of 1.3%.  Meanwhile, arrivals from Australia and New Zealand for 2012 were 507,948 tourists and 65,726 tourists respectively. Up until March 2013, arrivals reached 6.44 million tourists, an increase of 15.9% compared to the same period in 2012 (5.56 million arrivals).

For more information on the Sales Mission to New Zealand and Australia, please contact:
Ms. Nor Azura Polit
Assistant Director
International Marketing Division
Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board
Tel: 03-8891 800 (G/L) 8371 (D/L)
Fax: 03-8891 8399



Sunday, 16 June 2013

Kelantan Food & Heritage Trail 2013 - Part 1

The ATR 500 turboprop aircraft touched down at Sultan Ismail Petra Airport exactly at 12.45pm, on the dot, as per the ETA in our boarding passes.  This was the third time I was travelling by Firefly and I must admit that this airline’s services are the most punctual and efficient I had experienced so far. Keep up the good work guys!

So, here we were, in Kota Bharu for our ‘Tourism Malaysia’s Kelantan Food & Heritage Trail 2013’. I missed last year’s programme so I was not about to miss this one. After all, it’s about food, and food is kind of rhyme with my name. He, he. Anyway, we were met by Mr Mansour of Firefly Kota Bharu. Apparently our flight fares were sponsored by this generous airline company. We were ushered into a waiting bus and soon after, we were put to our first test at the Four Seasons Restaurant. This Halal chinese food eatery is a favourite among locals and tourists. And the food, needless to say was superb. My favourite was the Lemon Chicken, mmm…I still can imagine savouring it.

Four Seasons Restaurant is very popular among muslims in Kota Bharu.
The yummylicious chinese style food.
We later checked into the Grand Riverview Hotel, a four-star hotel with a view of the Kelantan river. A quick briefing and a get-to-know each other session were conducted before we had our tea while relishing the local cakes and delicacies served. A cooking demonstration was also performed by two resident chefs and we were introduced to two newly improvised local delicacies. Both were very tasty but I found them a bit too sweet.

Later in the evening, we were brought to one of the most unique and distinctive restaurant in Kota Bharu for dinner. Located at Lembah Sireh (Betel Leaf Valley), this floating restaurant was meant to be a river cruising boat, but the novel idea had to be shelved due to the ongoing bridge construction that was taking place along the Kelantan river mouth. Our arrival was greeted with an impressive drumworks performance by a group of young chinese troupe. This was followed by another performance by a three piece combo of a Kelantan traditional music that comprises a ‘nafiri’ (flute), a malay drum and a gong that accompanied a very entertaining Silat demonstration. Dinner was served shortly after and we wasted no time to savour the miscellaneous foods on the table….and oohhh, the lobster looked so temptingly delicious…..

The river cruise restaurant was being docked almost permanently at the jetty.
These young boys captivated us with their brilliant Chinese drums performance.
A Silat Pulut sparring performance.
A senior silat exponent displaying his prowess.
More food? Oh no!

The next morning, after a quick breakfast at The Grand Riverview hotel, we gathered at the main entrance of the hotel for the Beca Ride. We could see about 28 becas (trishaws) already lining up on the driveway, waiting for us to board their rickety three wheeled vehicle. Most of the trishaw men were quite old and it made me wonder whether this traditional mode of transport would still be around in Kota Bharu in ten years time. A group photo session was held before we were flagged off by Mr Kamal Azam of Tourism Malaysia Kelantan.

A newspaper clipping on our Beca Ride Programme
Colourful becas await us at the hotel driveway.
Aaron seems to enjoy the beca ride.
Led by a police outrider, our colourful convoy of becas made our first stop at the Islamic Museum where we had the opportunity to view the ancient Islamic artifacts from the Middle East and China. The museum, a large two-storey traditional wooden bungalow, also housed a complete history of Islamic influence and civilization in the Malay Archipelago, clearly documented and displayed in the form of artifacts and replicas. We were also served with light refreshments of cold syrup and the famous Murtabak Raja.

The Islamic Museum
One of the artifacts on display.
We then proceeded to the Muhammadi Mosque located just next door. Muhammadi Mosque is a state mosque with a great architecture that features graceful arches and golden coloured domens. Originally built from wood in 1867 during the reign of Sultan Muhammad II, the mosque was reconstructed using concrete in 1922 and was officially opened on Friday the 31st of July 1931 by His Royal Highness Sultan Ismail. 

Pintu Gerbang Kota Sultan Ismail Petra is a landmark by itself.
A short distance away was the iconic Pintu Gerbang Kota Sultan Ismail Petra, or the Main Gate of Sultan Ismail Petra Fortress. Also located in the same vicinity was the Muzium Adat Istiadat DiRaja (Museum of Royal Traditions and Customs), also known as Istana Jahar. The palace was also built by Sultan Muhammad II in 1855 for his grandson Long Kundur. It has a pentagon-shaped porte-cochere with first floor balcony from which members of the royal family could watch ceremonies in the palace compound. As the name suggests, it exhibits the royal family’s collection of artifacts and other significant objects of cultural, artistic, traditions and customary importance. Unfortunately, due to the strict restrictions policy, the media was not allowed to take photos of the interior and the artifacts on display.

Nasi Ulam Cikgu Restaurant is conveniently located at the main building of
the Handicraft Village.

Cikgu Hamid - The successful restauranteur in Kota Bharu.
To cap off our heritage trip of Kota Bharu, we walked to the famous Nasi Ulam Cikgu nearby for our traditional Kelantan lunch. The place was almost full when we reached there. I don’t think we could get enough seats had we not make the prior reservations. Anyway, we did our job (which was to finish the food) very well, thanks to the simple but somehow so tasty fried catfish, fried chicken and the ulams. Ulams are an assortment of herbs served during meal usually eaten with rice and ‘budu’ which is a local condiment. We also had the privilege to be hosted by the owner himself, Cikgu Hamid. We took some photographs with the friendly cikgu before we board our bus and snooze our way to our next destination, Bachok. See you in my next entry on Kelantan!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Monkey Business at Klias

“Uarghhhhhh” It’s going to be a lazy start today, I said to myself. I had such a good night’s sleep that waking up at 6am like I normally did seemed like a gargantuan task, more so when you were at Tempurung Seaside Lodge. I have no complaint about the non-airconditioned room as the sea breeze worked just fine. The 11 room of somewhat ‘boutique’ lodge is located at Kuala Penyu near Beaufort, about 45 minutes bus ride from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It is perched on top of a hillside overlooking the beautiful South China Sea. We had a chance to witness the spectacular sunset from the lodge’s large common balcony the evening before. The whole media team (me included) had looked forward to this relaxing retreat after our grueling Sungai Padas white water rafting programme the day before.

Tempurung Seaside Lodge - a cosy hillside retreat by the beach.
Spectacular sunset from the common balcony of Tempurung Seaside Lodge
My blogger friend, David, trying to capture the beautiful sunset moment.
View of a section of the lodge that housed the dining/games room.
Tempurung Seaside Lodge has to be commended for its good food and courteous staff. Guests are welcomed to use the facilities at the games room which consist of a pool and snooker table, darts and a guests lounge with satellite TV (they don’t have TVs in the individual rooms). The fine, white sandy private beach is very welcoming to the guests. Some of us went for a beach stroll after our scrumptious breakfast while the rest chose to either take a dip at the beach or simply laze themselves on the beach chairs.

Its just you and the nature...
A young couple having a morning stroll along the beach.

We saw a couple of fishermen at a distant and watched them row back to the shore. I rushed towards one of them to take some photos as he approached the northernmost part of the beach. Apparently it was not a very good day for the poor fisherman as the day’s catch was so meagre. “It’s part and parcel of being a fisherman. Last week it was bountiful. These few days were not so good, but it’s more than enough for Merah” said the fisherman, throwing a fish to a cat, which had been waiting patiently for the fisherman to return for its regular meal. Merah had earlier mingled with us at the beach. Such a spoiled cat! We ended our short one-night stay at Tempurung Seaside Lodge at 3pm after a hearty lunch. I really wouldn’t mind spending another night at the lovely lodge. It’s simply a perfect place for total relaxation.

Merah being spoiled by a media friend.
A lone fisherman rowing back to the shore.
The day's meagre catch.
Our next destination was the Klias river for our monkey watch. We reached the the Klias jetty cum floating restaurant at around 4pm. There were about 40 or so visitors already waiting for their turn to board their respective boats. Easily half of them were foreigners. We were served with tea and some local delicacies while waiting for our turn. In no time we were already on one of the boats, cruising the Klias river, with mangrove trees lining on both sides of the river. There were these delicious looking apple-like fruits that were in abundance which, I was later told, were poisonous. The juice of the ‘berembang’ or mangrove apples is being used as poison for the blowpipe darts.

River cruising is big business in Klias.
Klias river at dusk.
A group of proboscis monkeys displaying their acts.
There were other wildlife animals to be seen like the monitor lizards, macaque monkey, silver-haired monkey and the ‘spotlight’ of the cruise which was the proboscis monkey. Also known as the ‘Dutch Monkey’ among locals, the proboscis monkeys are only found exclusively in the Borneo with a large numbers found in Sabah. Seeing the eccentric monkey with their natural behaviour in the mangroves is truly a wonderful experience.

The river cruise business seemed to be thriving in Klias, judging from the number of jetties and boats of different shapes and sizes plying the river, ferrying with them hundreds of visitors daily.The Klias river cruise will not be complete if visitors don’t observe the display of lights by the fireflies after dusk. The species of fireflies here emit yellowish lights and responded actively to flashes of lights from the boatmen. It was so enchanting. Too bad I couldn’t capture them in photographs. My wish is that this beautiful eco-system will be well preserved despite the rapid physical developments for the sake of our future generations.

For more information on Tempurung Seaside Lodge and other interesting places in Sabah, please visit:

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