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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