Sunday, 28 December 2014

ASEAN Explore Quest Malaysia 2014 - Part 2

The first day of ASEAN Explore Quest Malaysia (AEQM) 2014 started with a visit to Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, one of the most popular theme park in the country. The theme park also boasts for having the world’s highest, largest and most thrilling water ride – The Vuvuzela!

Dato’ Haji Azizan Noordin, the Deputy Director General of Tourism Malaysia was present to flag off the event by sounding the air horn, followed by loud cheers of the participants.  The first activity of the day was for each and every member countries to come up with their own unique welcoming dance and theme song. This was followed by a few telematch games which lasted until late noon. After lunch, the coordinator announced the winner of the telematch which went to team Malaysia. A one hour free and easy was later spent by the participants exploring the theme park while some were seen busy snapping some pictures before they call it a day at about 4pm.

The second day of the ASEAN Explore Quest Malaysia 2014 took the participants to Homestay Kampung Lonek in Jempol, Negeri Sembilan, about 90km south of Kuala Lumpur. The two hour journey by bus passed through the state’s capital town of Seremban and the more scenic Kuala Pilah town.
Kampung Lonek (Lonek village) is located in the district of Jempol, about 20km from Kuala Pilah town. Patches of paddy farms greet visitors as they enter the village. The villagers are mostly farmers and small traders. 

Experiencing a homestay in a traditional village or “kampung” is perhaps one of the fastest and easiest ways to get to know the real Malaysia. Guests will discover that things here move at a slower pace than in the city, and for those who relish the quiet calm of the rustic life, this is possibly as good as it gets. 
Hajah Badariah Ahmad, the chairperson of the village homestay association was already prepared to greet the AEQM entourage with a group of ‘kompang’ percussionists when we arrived shortly before noon. After a short welcoming speech and briefing by Hajah Badariah, the participants were divided into three groups before we were brought around the village in special trams for a tour and demonstration of dodol making, mengemping padi  (flattening of dry rice) and kelulut bee farm. We also got to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the paddy fields, irrigation canals and the traditional village houses during the two kilometre tram ride.

In the next event, two members of AEQM, one male and one female were randomly selected to be the bride and groom of a traditional malay mock wedding. Ms. Ying Kanyapatch of Thailand and JV, the hot vlogger from Vietnam were the lucky ones. Dressed up in the best songket costumes, the couple was paraded to the altar with the beat of the kompangs complete with a full entourage. The audience and the wedding couple were then feted with display of traditional dances and silat performances by the locals.

The last event for the evening was a village telematch of F1, tarik upeh and coconut bowling before we proceed to Port Dickson where we will be spending the night at Grand Lexis.

End of a long and tiring (but fun nevertheless) day 2….

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

ASEAN Explore Quest Malaysia 2014 - Part 1

I was to represent Malaysia? Wow! “Is this for real?” I asked myself. That’s a real honour, representing your own country, wasn’t it?
The event was ASEAN Explore Quest Malaysia 2014 (AEQM). Tourism Malaysia organized it’s second year of the ASEAN Explore Quest Malaysia after having successfully organizing the same program last year. It started on the evening of the 13th of November with a press conference by the Director General of Tourism Malaysia, Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. Also present was Syed Yahya Syed Othman, Director of Tourism Malaysia – ASEAN sector.
THE Asean Explore Quest Malaysia this year brings together glitzy personalities from 10 countries in the region. The second installment of the event sees over 100 participants – comprising regional celebrities, media members and tour agents – racing through four states in Malaysia.
Much like the previous year, the event melds exploration, homestays and photography competition into a The Amazing Race-like experience as participants traverse across some of the country’s top tourist destinations and perform a myriad of activities.
Participants travel by bus from Kuala Lumpur to Negeri Sembilan and Johor Bahru, and then proceed to Penang via flight while engaging in the country’s tourism products.
“We want to create a memorable event for the celebrities, media, travel agents and tour operators. At the same time, we also want them to have a first-hand experience of Malaysia,” said Tourism Malaysia director general Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, when interviewed by the media.
After the press conference, we attended the official opening and a hearty dinner whilst being entertained by some cultural performances. Performed by a troupe from the Negeri Sembilan Cultural Department, the guests were impressed with the local duo who sang popular songs from all the different countries, in their own different languages!

Towards the end of the performances, guests and participants were invited on stage to join in the Malay dance of ‘Joget’, a very upbeat traditional dance that enthralled both the dancers and the audiences. It was joined by Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab himself!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Legoland's Halloween Treat.

Sunday, the 2nd of November marked the last day of LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort’s ‘Brick or Treat’ Halloween celebrations with guests fully enjoying the giant LEGO® pumpkin attraction that was built using 28,000 bricks.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Tattoo for the whole family?

"No. It's definitely not that kind of tattoo! It's the one where you can see all the motorcycles jumping across cars and trucks!" explained my eleven year old daughter when she was asked
The event poster
The Defense Minister, YB Dato' Seri Hishamuddin Hussein officiating the opening.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Of Coffee, Art and Music.

Brought my family for a roti canai breakfast at one of the mamak restaurants downstairs, ordered two glasses of teh tarik to be shared among four of us (???) and head to the boulevard for a few cups of FREE brewed coffees! How did that sound? What’s more, we had a window shopping stroll at one of the most tendy shopping mall in town and ended up spending a wholesome four hours of quality time with my family.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Merdeka in Malaysia

Merdeka means Independence in the Malay language. Malaysia gained its Independence from the British on the 31st of August 1957. This year also marked the 57th anniversary of our ‘Merdeka’, so the number 57 is very significant to the patriotic Malaysians for this particular year.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Pineapples, pineapples everywhere.

Another invitation from Santai magazine reached my email recently. Titled ‘Program Sahabat Media CC1M ke Johor’, it was hard for me to turn down because this was the first time I officially received a Fam Trip invitation to visit Johor and I wouldn’t want to miss this one. I know this southernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia has a lot to offer.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Hari Raya in Malaysia

“In adherence to the command of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and with the consent of the Rulers, I hereby declare that the date for Hari Raya Puasa (Aidilfitri) for all states in Malaysia has been set for Monday, July 28, 2014,” announced Datuk Seri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal. That was the announcement every Muslims in Malaysia had been waiting for every year. The Muslim community in Malaysia and all over the world celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, (Eid ul Fitr) or also known as Hari Raya Puasa, to conclude the month long fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Hari Raya Aidilfitri is regarded as a merry celebration as it marks a Muslim’s triumph and success on discipline and self-resistance which symbolizes refinement and rebirth.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Royal Belum – Malaysia's Latest Great Outdoor Adventure

A lot has been told about Royal Belum. It is a state park located within the Belum-Temenggor forest complex. The 130 million years old rainforest complex, believed to be the oldest in the world, is also the largest in Peninsular Malaysia. Located in the Malaysian state of Perak and crosses into Southern Thailand, the Belum-Temenggor is divided into two areas – Belum, located up north right until the Thailand border and Temenggor, at the south of Belum.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Discover Padang Rengas By Bike

Padang Rengas is a sub-district of Kuala Kangsar in Perak. Located in between Kuala Kangsar town and Grik to the north, it is a laid-back kampung (village) with the majority of the dwellers being rubber tappers and plantation owners. I personally observed something very interesting about this kampong – durian trees are almost everywhere!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Fabulous Fasting Treats in Kelantan

The holy month of Ramadan is a much awaited month in the Muslim calendar. For 30 days Muslims all over the world will be fasting prior to our biggest religious celebration of the year, the Eid ul Fitr, celebrated at the beginning of the month of Syawal.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Face to Face with Badang

Mention the name ‘Badang’ and the older generation Malays will picture a huge and muscular strong man, somewhat akin to the more popular Hercules. According to the story, Badang was a poor young man who made a living from fish he caught in his fishtrap that he laid every evening. He was thin and weak but dreamed of becoming strong. One day all his catch were eaten up and all that was left were fish bones. Badang was devastated and was determined to catch the culprit. The next morning, he secretly kept watch on his fishtrap and it turned out the culprit was a hungry genie. Badang was ready to beat him up after he caught him but the genie begged to be let go while promising to grant Badang any wish. Badang wished to be stronger than any man but had to fulfill an unpleasant condition; he had to eat up what the genie threw up.  True to the genie's words, after downing the genie's vomit, Badang became strong and was able to uproot a tree effortlessly. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Wow Experience in Kelantan

“Attention to passengers of Firefly flight FY2244 to Kota Bharu. Kindly proceed to gate number 4. Thank you”. The announcement made via the PA system at Subang Skypark made me grabbed my old carry-on bag, the one I got as a free gift when I bought a set of perfume almost 10 years ago. I was on the go again, this time on the invitation of Kelantan’s Ministry of Tourism and Culture office (MOTAC Kelantan). The event was ‘Kelantan International Lighted Kite Festival 2014’, held in conjunction of the annual 32nd Kelantan International Kite Festival at Pantai Geting, Tumpat.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Wings of Kuala Kubu Bharu 2014

I’ve never tried birdwatching before, so I jumped at the invitation by Santai magazine to join the media team for the ‘Wings of KKB 2014 – Selangor Bird Race’.  Held from 25-27th April, the event started at Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB) town and ended at the Awana Hotel & Resorts, Genting Highlands. “This is going to be great. I’ve never done birdwatching before” I said to myself. I missed the same event last year so I’m not about to miss this one.  

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Jungle Railway Experience

Trying to discover Malaysia but got tired of the usual kind? Then, you should try hopping into one of the trains that ply the east coast states of Peninsula Malaysia. You can choose to start the rail journey from JB Sentral in Johor Bahru, the southernmost city of Peninsula Malaysia, or you can save a 3 hour journey by boarding the train at Gemas, a transit town in Negeri Sembilan, about one and a half hour drive south of Kuala Lumpur.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Slithery Attraction of Perlis

Snakes are not one of my favourite animals but a visit to Perlis would not be complete if we missed the only snake farm in Malaysia.

I was accompanying a good friend, Alreaq, for his business trip to Kangar in his brand new white pick up truck. The 650km drive from Kuala Lumpur to Kangar in the Ford Ranger XLT 2.2 Turbo Diesel was a very pleasant one and the truck’s breakthrough engine technology felt very responsive and smooth. Of course the six speed gearbox helps.  

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ancient Kedah Revisited - Part 2

Day 2 started on a very positive note. There were excitement in the air and this could be clearly seen on the faces of the participants. Well, the simple but delicious breakfast of fried bee hoon (thin rice noodle) helped too!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Ancient Kedah Revisited - Part 1

"Lets meet up. Johnny Rockets @ Curve at 12pm" was the Whatsapp message I received from Azrin Zizal, the Media Officer of The Menteri Besar of Kedah (Chief Executive for the state government of Kedah), one of the northernmost states in the Peninsula of Malaysia. To cut a long story short, that 2 hour lunch meeting (over juicy burgers and choc smoothies) resulted in Azrin preparing a brilliant idea of promoting Sungai Batu in Merbok, Kedah not only as an ancient and historical site, but he also came up with a special programme for visitors to have hands-on experience of being an archaeologist. The green light was given by the Menteri Besar and invitations were sent to the mainstream media practitioners. I was privileged to be chosen as the only social media practitioner invited.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Paranormal Night Tour @ Kellie's Castle

Mention Kellie's Castle to most Malaysians, and first thing that comes to their minds will be the mystery that surrounds it.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A Visit to Malaysia's Oldest Museum

The Perak Museum is the oldest museum in Malaysia. Founded in 1883 by Sir Hugh Low, the forth British Resident of Perak, the museum is also one of the most visited museums in Malaysia. Why is the Perak Museum located in Taiping and not Ipoh, the capital city of Perak, you may ask. Well, Taiping was the state capital of Perak from 1876 to 1937 and was succeeded by Ipoh thereafter. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Sarawak All Set To Host The ASEAN Tourism Forum 2014

KUCHING, 10 JANUARY 2014: With just days to the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF), the state of Sarawak  and host city of Kuching, are all geared to welcome over 1,600 delegates which includes ASEAN Tourism Ministers and officials, exhibitors, international buyers, international and local media as well as tourism trade visitors.

Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to deliver a key note address at the official opening ceremony on January 20. The ATF is the first major international conference in conjunction with the start of Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014.

The ATF is a cooperative regional effort to position and promote the ASEAN region as one tourist destination where Asian hospitality and cultural diversity are at its best. Adopting the theme, ASEAN - ADVANCING TOURISM TOGETHER, the ATF 2014 will deliberate and explore the sustainable development of tourism and look at how various tourism initiatives and plans can further support the mantra of Tourism Conserves, Preserves and Protects.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

On the Trail of Ancient Kedah - Part 2

Day 2: The real adventure began. Well, at least that’s what I had in mind when I first got the invitation. It’s not really an adventure, to be frank. It’s more of a guided tour, but a good one, nonetheless. We started with a visit to the Lembah Bujang (Bujang Valley) Archaeological Museum at Bukit Batu Pahat. Some of us took some time to buy some local delicacies at the stalls located just before the main entrance. I bought RM2 worth of Cucur Peneram, a sweet deep fried, soft but crispy delicacy. Freshly fried, the 20 pieces of soft biscuits were gone in no time after I offered them to fellow participants. 
The museum is the only one in Malaysia which exhibits archaeological collections that serves as evidence of the existence of a trade and Hindu/Buddhism propagation center in Southeast Asia from the 3rd to the 12th century AD. These archaeological evidence clearly shows that Lembah Bujang was a central port which served as a trade center for traders dominating the trading routes between the eastern and western countries especially the Chinese, Indian and Arab traders as well as Malay traders in the Malay archipelago who monopolized spice and exotic jungle goods trade for middle east export.

The Galleries and Collections in the Lembah Bujang Archaeological Museum have two main galleries which displays archaeological artifacts serving as evidence of Lembah Bujang’s existence as 1: Southeast Asia’s central trading port from the 3rd to 12th century AD comprising of goods brought by Arab, Chinese and Indian traders as well as maritime traders from the Malay archipelago including exotic jungle produce like gaharu, cendana etc. 
2: Architecture and materialistic culture leftovers which is connected to religious faith and proving the existence of Hindu/Buddhist faith which is the practice of a portion of the society using the Lembah Bujang as an entreport in the 3rd through the 12th century AD. Items displayed are architectural designs of Hindu temples with Hindu/Buddhist features and devices which could be related to the Hindu/Buddhist faith.

We conclude the trip after visiting the oldest chandi (temple) on top of the hill located just behind the museum. I was very impressed with the collections of archaeological artifacts at the museum. Some of them were very old but were still preserved in an immaculate condition.  

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

On The Trail of Ancient Kedah - Part 1

Wednesday 6th November 2013. 9.25am – Our bus took off from Matic (Malaysian Tourism Centre) in Ampang Road. Almost one hour late from schedule. Thank God the good people from Santai magazine had arranged for a Police outrider to escort our bus out of the busy Kuala Lumpur downtown.

The journey to Sungai Petani, Kedah took about five hours. After a couple of stopovers at the North South highway’s Rest & Relax areas, we finally reached the spanking new building of MPSPK (Sungai Petani Municipal Council) about 2 hours late. Nevertheless, the friendly staff of the town council warmly welcomed us upon arrival and quickly ushered us to the main conference room. The President of MPSPK, Datuk Haji Ismail Haji Said, chaired the meeting that was attended by the municipality council members and representatives from the various federal agencies in Kedah. A slide presentation on the future development of Sungai Petani was presented to the audience. Special attention on development was given to the historical sites and tourist attractions within the fairly large district.   

Done with the briefing two hours later, we were brought to Semeling Jetty, where we were supposed to rivercruise along the Merbok river to Tanjung Dawai at its rivermouth. All of us were looking forward to the river excursion until about 15 minutes into the journey, when the dark clouds above poured heavy rain on us. The boatmen tried to brave the heavy downpour but after a while we were advised by the Fire and Rescue team that accompanied us in another boat to turn back to avoid any untoward incidents.
The Semeling Jetty. The floating dining hall is on the foreground.
View from the middle of the complex. 
New buildings with a well-kept landscape
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We went back to the jetty with some disappointments but were nevertheless treated to a very informative slide show on mangrove conservation programmes along the Merbok river. The new Semeling Jetty complex, completed about three years ago consists of a theatre hall, an amphitheatre, a gallery, a mini museum, a souvenir shop and a restaurant. Built on stilts, the beautiful and modern complex, packaged with the Merbok rivercruise, is set to become another tourist hotspot in Sungai Petani.

Pantai Merdeka, the only coastal area with sandy beaches in Kedah, was our last destination for the day. We were welcomed by the resort manager of Merdeka Beach Resort, our host for the evening, which treated us with Air Nira (fermented coconut drink) as the welcome drink. The small but cozy resort, located about 26 km from Sungai Petani, lies by the idyllic beach and is a perfect hideaway for city folks. A wide range of watersport activities such as sailing, waterskiing, canoeing and Banana boat rides are available. Island hopping is also in store for those who are looking for some island adventures. Local boatmen will readily ferry visitors with their sampans to the islands of Pulau Bunting, Pulau Song Song and Pulau Bidan for a reasonable fee.

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