Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Three Malaysian Beaches Make it to the Top 50 Beaches in the World

KUALA LUMPUR, 9 JULY 2013: According to a survey conducted by renowned 
international news network CNN on the World’s 100 best beaches, three beaches in Malaysia made it to the top 50.

The three beaches are Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi, Kedah (ranked at No.49), Juara Beach in Tioman Island, Pahang (ranked at No.21), and Perhentian Kecil island, Terengganu (ranked at No.13). The list was compiled from various sources taking into consideration feedback from travelers, colleagues and readers as well as on-site visits and research.

Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi, Kedah According to the CNN report, “Most tourists on Langkawi flock to Pantai Cenang beach, but the quieter Tanjung Rhu has an earthy beauty and serene atmosphere. The long beach area is surrounded by ancient limestone caves, rippling waterways and dense mangroves.”
We love Langkawi for the breathtaking view from atop Gunung Mat Cincang, one of the islands highest mountains.

Imagine lazing yourself at this tranquil beach at Tanjung Rhu. 
Tanjung Rhu Resort is one of the popular resorts on this long stretch of idyllic beach.
Juara Beach, Tioman Island, Pahang "Less developed and less polished than Thailand, Tioman Island's Juara Beach brings an all-natural, quiet vibe to the beach experience. This isn't the place for parties or nightlife, unless you like your parties hushed and your nightlife nonhuman," quoted CNN. Tioman Island is also a great place for adrenalin junkies who want a rock climbing challenge at Nenek Semukut Mountain.

Its almost paradise in Tioman.
Tioman is home to four of the world's seven species of sea turtles, including critically endangered species. Visitors have the opportunity to help them out at the Juara Turtle Project. 
Perhentian Kecil Island, Terengganu CNN wrote, “Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands are to beach bums what Kobe beef is to carnivores; once you’ve experienced it, nothing else quite matches up. The two main islands are the backpacker-happy Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian Island), and Pulau Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian Island), which has slightly more expensive 
accommodations.” The highlight of Pulau Perhentian Kecil, according to CNN, is the blue waters which invariably contain turtles and small sharks.

Crystal clear waters make a perfect backdrop in Perhentian Island.
Perhentian Island is a favourite for scuba and snorkeling activities.

More Fun in the Sun Besides these three beaches, Malaysia has hundreds of tropical islands dotting its waters and countless picturesque beaches lining its shores, making it one of the region’s top destinations for sun, sea and sand holidays. Blessed with a tropical climate all year round and unparalleled natural beauty both on land and underwater, some of the world’s best islands and beaches can be found here. Here are the best beaches and islands according to the locals themselves.

Sipadan Island, Sabah Sipadan is an internationally famous dive site surrounded by the Sulawesi Sea. The geographic position of Sipadan at the Indo-Pacific Basin (the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world) makes it a paradise for divers. The seascape is decorated with huge gorgonian sea fans, barrel sponges and gigantic soft tree corals. Steep walls form a stunning backdrop while pelagic species such as sharks and turtles swim gracefully. To preserve the delicate ecosystem, accommodation is only provided at the neighbouring islands of Mabul and Kapalai, tours must be prearranged. The nearest airport to Sipadan is Tawau. From Tawau, take an hour’s drive to Semporna before proceeding with a 40-minute speedboat ride to the island.

For more information on the beautiful beaches of Malaysia and other interesting places, please visit:


Sunday, 14 July 2013

In Search of 'The Perak Man' - Part 2

Day 2 began with all of us convening at the Archaeological Gallery for the ‘adventure part’ of the program. There were fourteen 4x4 vehicles already waiting for us. I chose a silver and red Ford Ranger Hurricane pick-up and together with Shasha and Shareen. The convoy of 4x4s was supposed to take us to the various archaeological sites in Lenggong Valley.

Fourteen 4x4s lined up while waiting for their late passengers.
Scenic beauty of the bridge across the Perak River.
Our adventure 4x4 rides were mostly through palm oil plantations.
Lenggong Valley is a vast area in the district of Lenggong, Perak. The area, which was awarded the UNESCO Heritage Status on the 30th June 2012 includes four archaeological sites in two clusters which span close to 2 million years, one of the longest records of early man in a single locality, and the oldest outside the African continent. It features open-air and cave sites with Palaeolithic tool workshops, evidence of early technology. The number of sites found in the relatively contained area suggests the presence of a fairly large, semi-sedentary population with cultural remains from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Metal ages.

At one of the excavation sites at Bukit Bunuh, believed to be
along the ancient river path of the Perak River.
The lush Lenggong Valley on the Malay Peninsula contains evidence in open-air and cave sites along the Perak River spanning all the periods of hominid history outside Africa from 1.83 million to 1,700 years ago.
Undisturbed in situ Palaeolithic stone tool workshops are located on the shores of a paleolake (ancient lake) and ancient river gravel beds and dated in a long chronological sequence.

The legend of The Lenggong Valley area.
A meteorite strike 1.83 million b.p. blocked and diverted the river preserving Palaeolithic tools at Bukit Bunuh, where hand axes are among the oldest so far discovered outside Africa. Analysis suggests these were made by hominids which thus provide an extremely early date for hominid presence in South-East Asia. Mr. Shahrin did an excellent job explaining to us all these facts like the back of his hand.

Volcanic ash of the Toba volcano eruption some 72,000 years ago at Bukit Sapi.
Our 4x4 rides than proceeded to Bukit Sapi about 10 km from Bukit Bunuh. Here, we were shown the tanah putih (white earth) of about 3 metres in height. Apparently, tanah putih, as the locals call it, is a volcanic ash from Sumatera.  A catastrophic Toba volcanic eruption in 70,000 BP. caused abandonment of a workshop site containing multiple tool types at Kota Tampan. Again it shows evidence of hominid presence in the Lenggong Valley, as is the case of similar findings of workshop abandonments at Bukit Jawa (from 200,000-100,000 BP), at Bukit Bunuh (40,000 BP) and at Gua Harimau (1000 BP).

This area is protected by the Heritage Department!
Next was the highlight of the program. A very much anticipated visit to Gua Gunung Runtuh, home to the ‘Perak Man’. After a 20 minute climb through the lush tropical jungle (the last quarter was quite grueling), we reached the peak of Gunung Runtuh and went into the cave. It was here that the skeleton of The Perak Man was found and excavated by Prof Dato’ Zuraina 13 years ago. 

The last 100 metres was quite grueling for most of us.
Perak Man is South-East Asia’s oldest most complete human skeleton. It is radiocarbon dated to 10,120 BP and identified as Australomelanesoid, a hominid type occupying the western part of the Indonesia archipelago and continental South-East Asia at the end of the Pleistocene and early Holocene. Within the large karst outcrop of Bukit Kepala Gajah  are 20 caves. Three of these, Gua Gunung Runtuh, Gua Teluk Kelawar and Gua Kajang, have revealed prehistoric burials. Together these four sites in two clusters sites represent the sequence of significant stages in human history unrivalled in the region.

The smaller hole at the foreground was where Perak man was found.
We ended our 4x4 adventure trip of The Lenggong Valley with a short visit to Hutan Lipur Lata Kekabu (Lata Kekabu Recreational Park), had a hearty evening tea of roti jala, mee hoon and durians before we had a quick dip in the cool, clear stream.

By 6.30pm, most of us had ourselves recharged before we boarded our respective 4x4s and proceeded to our crash for the night, Homestay Kampung Beng.    

Monday, 8 July 2013

In search of 'The Perak Man' - Part 1

“Salam Perak Aman Jaya!”

That is how you will be greeted when you go to Perak. Why Perak you say? Well, let me tell you a story of one particular weekend in Perak. I was lucky to get an invitation from Tourism Malaysia to a FAMTRIP – UNESCO Lembah Lenggong. Led by 13 Tourism Malaysia officers and our awesome tour guide, Mr. Zukni, a group of travel agents and media mostly from Kuala Lumpur, my excited-self included, traveled to Lenggong, Perak to explore and ‘get familiarized’ with Lenggong Valley. The valley was officially inscribed as UNESCO’s World Heritage site on July 1, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

"The World Heritage List (of Lenggong Valley) includes 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage, which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value." - UNESCO

The Geological Museum in Ipoh is also the biggest in the country.
The Museum Officer explaining to us the various layers of the earth's crust.

The trip to Lenggong Valley started off on a cool Saturday morning in Kuala Lumpur, and our first stop took us to Muzium Geologi in Ipoh. Established in 1957 by the Geoscience Department, the museum exhibits the biggest collections of fossils, rocks, minerals, gemstones and cassiterite (also known as tin ore) in Malaysia. I, for one felt like a kid in a toy store, super excited and eager to play, I mean learn. The museum consists of seven (7) zones and we started off with the history of the museum and earth. We were then moved to the following zones and learned about fossils and rocks formation, as well as, the different kinds and purposes of minerals, crystals and gems in Malaysia and around the world.  I have never seen so many odd looking but beautiful stones in my life before. Imagine what Jules Verne had to learn while writing Journey to the Center of the Earth.

My kids are going to love this!
Among the vast exhibits in the museum are these animal fossils.
Precious stones and marbles are among the products of natural stones.
The various types of tin ore, most of them found in Malaysia.
Our tour ended in Mineral Exploration & Marine Geology activities and Technology zones. We were explained about geological hazards and disasters in Malaysia, current technologies, researches and proposed geology developments that include two geoparks in Sabah and Sarawak. All in all, it was a very informative tour and I was pretty sure it left an impression on some of us. 

After spending about an hour in Muzium Geologi, our hungry stomach started to make a funny noise. From Ipoh, we traveled 80 km north to Lenggong – our main destination - about an hour away. The countryside of Perak is filled with lush greenery, unique old houses and buildings. The journey definitely took me to another era

Its 'makan time'!
These are real delicious kampung dishes!
Restoran Tasik Raban was waiting for us when we arrived. Plates of delicious local dishes were served on the table. I am not a fresh water fish, or ‘ikan darat’ fan. They smell too fishy for my liking. However, this trip changed that. First time ever I tried their famous grilled Tilapia fish and I was blown away. Cooked to perfection with all the spices, definitely a must-try when you go to Tasik Raban’s famous stop. It’s a small restaurant away from the town but visited by VIPs and people from all walks of life.

The fish are well grilled before the gravy are poured on top.
Fancy a plate of Kerai fish?

I could tell that some of us could not wait to get to our next destination, Galeri Arkeologi Lenggong, in Kota Tampan, where Perak Man was found by Prof. Dato’ Zuraina. Now Perak Man is another fascinating story that will be told in the next blog. So we left the restaurant and headed to the gallery to meet Mr. Mohd Shahrin Abdullah from Jabatan Warisan Negara for the briefing on Perak Man and site visit itinerary. During the briefing, I felt so proud when I heard the story of the 7 Malaysians (Mr. Shahrin included) in St. Petersburg, Russia who fought so hard for Lenggong Valley to be nominated as a world heritage site. We are indeed a tiny nation with a loud voice. Malaysia Boleh!

The gallery and archeological sites are located in the middle of palm oil plantations and I could clearly see Banjaran Titiwangsa in the background wherever I turned. I would trade the whole Kuala Lumpur for this view. Teamed up with clear blue sky and clouds, the air was clean and fresh. I love this countryside.

Replica of the skeleton of The Perak Man.
Several specimens of deposits, minerals and prehistoric rocks collected around Lenggong Valley are displayed in the gallery park. Some of these rocks dated as far back as 1.83 million years ago. Fascinating! Quartz, alluvium and volcanic ash of Lake Toba are among cool artifacts on display There are more exhibits in the gallery building that include the discovery of Perak Man in chronology order, cave paintings, replica of Perak Man skeleton and stone tools found dated thousands of years ago in Hulu Perak. The group definitely was eager to visit the real archeological site the next day and witness the historical valley.

Lenggong Rest House welcomes us!
At the end of the first day, we checked in at Rumah Rehat Lenggong for a good sleep and rest. Tomorrow would be a day full of adventures in Lenggong Valley. Better put on my Indiana Jones costumes. Until next time!

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