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Malaysia Travel Guide

Medicinal plants you can try in Sarawak!

Sarawakians and the jungles of Borneo have lived in harmony for centuries. And one way we stay healthy is by incorporating the medicinal plants found around us into our diets or using them as a cure when we are sick or injured.

We’ve come to deeply respect and appreciate the delicate ecosystem of the jungle and all that live inside it. We believe that by taking care of nature, nature will take care of us!

Credit: Nigel Dickinson

These medicinal plants hold valuable healing attributes. They’ve been utilised for centuries by our people to keep them in good health and provide relief to a myriad of ailments. Now, these plants are making their way into alternative medicine.

Sarawakian concoctions of traditional medicine are used to treat skin diseases, fevers, headaches and even detox after childbirth.

So while you may recognise many of these plants and even eat them or use them for cooking, you’ll probably be surprised to know they have excellent healing benefits. Allow us to open your eyes to Sarawak’s world of medicinal plants! Who knows, the information you learn might be useful to you too one day. *wink*

Turmeric

Source: Swanson Vitamins

In the West, turmeric was first embraced as a fabric dye. However, in Asian communities, it is known for being the spice that will stain your hands yellow! It also makes a great addition to a lot of dishes, but Sarawakians have used this plant for more than just making great tasting food. It is also used for its many health benefits.

In fact, recent clinical trials have confirmed the ways turmeric can improve health, which shows the wisdom of our people! Turmeric has been discovered to be a powerful antioxidant, and it has anti-inflammatory qualities, plus it makes an effective pain reliever.

Source: Eden Project

The indigenous Iban tribe in Sarawak use turmeric to treat skin diseases by pounding the roots into a poultice which is then applied to the affected area. They also add turmeric in food or herbal drinks as nourishment for women after childbirth. Meanwhile another indigenous tribe, the Melanau, consume turmeric to relieve headaches.

Curcumin, an active substance found in the turmeric plant, is said to improve memory and mood swings. It also helps in alleviating depression. Not only that, but curcumin also promotes digestion, lactation and diminishes stretch marks while adding a glow to the skin. It is even being researched for use in cancer prevention and treatment!

Guava

Source: Healthline

We’re pretty sure you’ve walked into a convenience store and seen guava juice on the shelves and it’s also a delicious fresh, pink fruit but did you know that Guava has multiple health benefits?

Guava is most commonly cultivated in villages and even in urban homes. Its leaf extract improves blood sugar content, which is beneficial to diabetic people or those at risk of contracting diabetes. Consuming the plant’s young leaves raw reduces diarrhoea and constipation, which is why Sarawakian indigenous communities, like the Iban and Kayan, eat the leaves when they have a case of upset tummy!

Source: Gardening Know How

Traditionally, the leaves of the guava plant are pounded into a paste and spread onto skin as a treatment for skin diseases, such as rashes or ringworm. The Iban apply sap from the leaves directly onto open wounds to heal them. The Kenyah and Kelabit do the same, except that instead of using sap, they use a poultice of the young leaves.

The fruit itself is naturally healthy as it is rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, and it contains natural folic acid, which is essential for pregnant women!

Galangal

Source: One Green Planet

Many people confuse galangal with ginger because they both look eerily similar! However, they have very different tastes. While ginger is known for being pungently spicy, galangal has a sharp citrusy flavour. They do, however, belong to the same family.

Galangal can be used fresh, dried, powdered, as an oil, or even as a juice, and is a staple ingredient in many curry dishes. It’s widely cultivated in villages or grown near villages. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and small doses can help to prevent various types of nausea, especially morning sickness. The Kelabit even prepare galangal tea for mothers after childbirth to help regain their energy and for revitalisation!

Source: Sunshine Coast Daily

The Bidayuh reduce the effects of fever by crushing the leaves and stems of the galangal plant, boiling them and then using the water to bathe in.

Although galangal is considered a spice by many communities, the Iban turn it into a remedy by pounding and mixing it with a pinch of salt. By applying this mixture onto skin, it can reduce itchiness caused by accidentally rubbing against plants similar to Poison Ivy or Hogweed.

Tapioca

Source: The Spruce Eats

If you are lucky enough to get invited into a Malaysian home at tea time, you might get to try ubi kayu with sambal tumis (fried chilli paste)! The young leaves of tapioca plants are traditionally eaten as vegetables. They are also served as a local salad alongside sambal belacan (chilli shrimp paste).

However, unknown to many, rubbing the latex onto the skin is said to relieve swelling while drinking fresh juice squeezed from tapioca leaves may stop the vomiting of blood. Furthermore, regular intake of tapioca leaf tea offers protection against colon cancer.

Source: Gardening Know How

The tapioca can be turned into a poultice that is used to mitigate headaches, as practised by the Sarawak’s indigenous tribes like the Bidayuh, Selakoh, and Melanau. Drinking a concoction of its leaf juices and honey is also said to alleviate constipation. The latex from the plant can relieve swelling on the skin, and some indigenous communities use that as an antidote against the sap of the rengas tree that can cause an adverse reaction if touched.

Chinese Motherwort

Source: Crimson Sage Nursery

This herb, better known as kacangma by Sarawakians, is also listed as one of the 50 most fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is mostly used by mothers after childbirth. Its Chinese name is even yi mu cao, which means “beneficial herb for mothers”.

Chinese motherwort is a herb not commonly sold in other parts of the world, or even in Malaysia! You can only get it at Chinese herbalist stores in Sarawak, or by growing your own. However, a word of caution! The leaves of this plant look like marijuana leaves, so you might need to do a bit of explaining if the authorities catch you with it!

Source: HashtagEn

Technically, the Chinese motherwort on its own, is not widely used in Sarawak. However, we think it deserves a mention as this herb is used to cook “motherwort chicken”, which is a uniquely Sarawakian dish prepared by the Hakka Chinese community. It is a common (and tasty!) confinement dish for women after childbirth. In fact, tastes so good, that people eat it even if they’re not new mothers!

Honourable mention

Source: Langit Collective

Pepper is probably the most famous spice in the world, enjoyed by everyone everywhere!

Many people might know that Malaysia is one of the top 5 pepper-producing nations in the world. But did you know that Sarawak produces 95% of Malaysia’s pepper?

In fact, our pepper is said by aficionados to be the best in the world. You can believe us because our pepper has even been awarded the Protected Geographical Indication* status (PGI). This is why we believe it deserves an honourable mention!

*Geographical Indications (GIs) are goods with special characteristics or with a certain prestige due to their geographical origin.

Source: Serious Eats

Pepper is not only a tasty addition to any food. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients in our famous Sarawak laksa! Pepper is also a powerful antioxidant that helps expel wind from the body and improves blood circulation. It also can prevent tooth decay and helps to cool down the body by inducing sweating!

If you’ve ever seen people spreading pepper on meat, that’s because its antibacterial qualities make it a good preservative. It also stimulates the appetite and has been used to treat people with eating disorders. It’s been said that strong black pepper and mint tea will help bring up unwanted mucus and phlegm, clearing the chest! Nice!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to some of the medicinal plants in our jungles. If you do visit Sarawak and go foraging for any of the above, we recommend to take a guide with you and please remember the jungle has a unique and very delicate ecosystem that must be respected. If you take care of nature, she’ll take care of you!

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The Natural History of Sarawak and Alfred Russel WallaceThe Natural History of Sarawak and Alfred Russel Wallace

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Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Why Kuching should be on the radar of every digital nomad

As a digital nomad in Southeast Asia, there’s a good chance you’re used to doing things the unconventional way. If that’s the case, you ought to read on and learn about the place dubbed the next Chiang Mai.

We’re talking about Kuching, Sarawak. 

Source: appc2019.ifm.org.my

Located in the Malaysian part of Borneo, Kuching is the capital city of Sarawak, a founding partner in the nation of Malaysia. Modern yet laid back, Kuching has outstanding infrastructure yet remains very much in touch with nature. 

Modern Kuching can be traced back to 1841, when James Brooke, the son of an English judge in the East India Company who happened to be sailing the Malay Archipelago, helped the King of Brunei crush a rebellion in southern Borneo.

Source: Culture Trip

As a reward, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II of Brunei gave him Sarawak, a swampy and mostly jungle-covered land inhabited by notorious and very dangerous headhunting indigenous tribes.

And that’s how James Brooke became the first White Rajah and the Kingdom of Sarawak was born. With the exception of the second world war period from 1941 – 1945 when it was occupied by the Japanese, Sarawak was a standalone kingdom under the White Rajahs until 1946.

At the end of the occupation of Sarawak, on 11 September 1945, the British military took over Sarawak for 7 months before handing it back to Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke. 

Seeing the damage done by the Japanese, Rajah Brooke realised he no longer had the resources to develop Sarawak. He hoped that with the cession of Sarawak as a British crown colony, the British would be able to rebuild Sarawak’s infrastructure and develop its postwar economy.

So Sarawak became a British colony from 1946-1963 before becoming equal partners along with Peninsular Malaya, Sabah and Singapore to form Malaysia. (Singapore later withdrew itself and became an independent nation in 1965).

Source: blogspot.com

The White Rajahs played an important role in uniting the multiple races in Sarawak. With multiple ethnicities such as Malay, Iban, Bidayuh, Chinese and Indians residing harmoniously, Kuching has become a true melting pot of cultures and is seen by many as a role model for cultural and religious harmony. 

Kuching is called ‘The City of Cats’. You will find cat murals and statues everywhere in the town centre. The city’s obsession really stems from its name. The word ‘Kucing’ means cat in the Malay language. 

How Kuching got its name is a mystery. Some say that when the first Rajah of Sarawak, James Brooke, arrived around 1839, he pointed to the settlement and asked a local what it was called. The local, mistakenly thought he was pointing at a passing cat and said ‘Kucing’ (pronounced Coo-ching). 

A descendant of the passing cat that James Brooke mistakenly pointed at. Or so we like to think. 😉 Source: Aish Mann

Others claim the city was named after trees that once grew throughout the area, bearing small fruit called mata kucing, or ‘cat’s eye fruit’, which is similar to lychee. The last theory is that the name was chosen when residents discovered short-tailed cats living along the banks of the mighty Sarawak River which flows through the city.   

As you walk around the streets of Kuching, you’ll feel the soul of the city in its historic buildings, vibrant street art, and warm, friendly people. 

‘The Early Mercers’ at India Street. Source: Aish Mann

With lush rainforests and the South China Sea in close proximity, a chilled authentic vibe with all the luxuries of a modern city, Kuching is the perfect haven for digital nomads who want an idyllic environment in which to work.

So, why should digital nomads base themselves in Kuching?

We asked a few who have made the move to Kuching and here’s what one said: 

After visiting a lot of tourist places, I found a peaceful and quiet place in Kuching to focus on my work. iCube is very comfortable and convenient. I can find everything I need in the nearby mall Icom Square with lots of food places and a gym. People here are very calm, kind and respectful. Everyone speaks English, so it’s easy to connect with locals. It’s not the case everywhere in Asia and this is a very appreciable point for me.” –Virginie Sarachman, France.

The sky puts on a spectacular show almost every day at Waterfront, Kuching. 

We also spoke to Melvin Liew the ‘go to’ guy for digital nomads in Kuching. Here’s what he had to say about the gradually growing digital nomad community in Kuching. 

We saw the trend (of digital nomad arrivals) increasing when the tourism sector in Sarawak started to grow. It is essential to have a solid community and the constant improvement of infrastructure for Digital Nomads in Sarawak.” – Melvin Liew, Director, iCube Innovation

Another reason for digital nomads to live in Kuching 

If you’re from Europe or North America, you get a 90-day visa on arrival, compared to a 30-day visa for Indonesia and a 2-week visa for Thailand.

Source: tour-borneo-malaysia.com

That means you have plenty of time to get settled in and every time you leave the country, you get a 3-month visa on your return.

Now, it may seem like Kuching is in some faraway, inaccessible land, but the truth is, you could be sipping a cold beer in the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road, Singapore in a mere 3 hours. 

Singapore too sterile for you? Then you can be in downtown Kuala Lumpur in 3 hours too. The beautiful beaches of Kota Kinabalu are just 2 hours away.

Fancy something laidback? Then the city of Bandar Seri Begawan would be up your alley with direct flights from Kuching that will get you there in less than 2 hours. And the cherry on the cake is that flights to all these destinations start from just US$20! 

Now, where should you stay in Kuching?

Kuching has accommodation for all budgets. Airbnb works pretty well here and you have an array of apartments/condominiums to choose from. 

James from locationindependent.co.uk suggests placing yourself as close to the Waterfront area as possible. He says there really isn’t an expat neighborhood but Waterfront is the most central part of Kuching and almost all the main spots are walkable from there. 

Another main area is Padungan Street. It’s a bit further away from the town centre but it is a lively street with some of the best food options. 

If you prefer a short-term rental, we suggest you come and stay in a hotel to personally view places before renting, just to be on the safe side. 

How do you move around town?

Kuching is the most pedestrian-friendly city in Malaysia, especially if you live around the town centre.

Carpenter Street. 

Car or motorbike rentals are available but we recommend Grab (equivalent of Uber) and Maxim. Both apps work flawlessly around Kuching and each ride costs between US$2 – 4 if you’re in the town area.

Where to stuff your face 

Now that you’re mobile, it’s time to get some delicious food into that hungry tummy!

Lucky for you, Kuching is full of gastronomical marvels. 

With numerous influences from indigenous tribes as well as Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures, you’ll never run out of new things to appease your hunger. 

One of the most famous dishes you absolutely have to try is Sarawak Laksa. This typical Sarawakian breakfast dish is made of a special prawn-based broth thickened with coconut milk.

A perfect, mouth-watering bowl of Sarawak laksa. 

Served with a generous portion of omelette strips, crunchy bean sprouts, chicken shreds, and plump prawns as well as a squeeze of calamansi lime for extra zest and thick sambal paste on the side. 

The late Anthony Bourdain called Sarawak Laksa, ‘The breakfast of the Gods’. 

#Laksa #Kuching Breakfast of the Gods

A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on May 28, 2015 at 6:57pm PDT

 

One of the best places to find a fiiine bowl of Laksa is at Chong Choon Cafe. Remember, Sarawak laksa is a breakfast dish, so it sells out by around 10 am.

Other must-try dishes in Kuching include Kolo Mee at Annie Kolo Mee or Oriental Park Cafe and authentic Sarawakian tribal food at Tribal Stove the Dyak

A beautiful bowl of Kolo Mee. 

One meal with a drink in a traditional Kuching restaurant or coffee shop should cost you no more than US$2-5. Here’s a more comprehensive food guide with tips on where to find cheap eats in Kuching.

How do you pay for stuff?

You can’t use US dollars to pay like in Cambodia. The currency used in Kuching is Ringgit Malaysia (RM). Although some places only accept cash, most places accept credit cards or E-Wallets. 

Some of the E-Wallets you can use are GrabPay, SarawakPay, FavePay, and Boost E-wallet

What’s the internet like?

Ah yes, internet: the lifeline of a digital nomad. 

Connectivity issues can be quite scary if your livelihood depends on the internet. And the Bornean rainforest doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of place you can do seamless Video calls. Buut…

Don’t worry, Kuching has all-around 4G coverage and you can find wifi at almost every cafe. 

The 3 main service providers in Sarawak with solid coverage are Celcom, Maxis and Digi. 

You can pick up a sim card at the airport for as low as US$8 and this will last you a whole month with constant coverage!

Here’s a price comparison between the service providers. 

Where the magic happens… 

Now that you’re settled in and well connected, it’s time to look for a place to work. 

There are a number of co-working spaces available but the main curator of the digital nomad community is iCube Innovation

Source: coworker.imgix.net

They have the most up-to-date facilities if all you want to do is put your head down and get some work done. 

Their packages start from as low as US$36 per month for a hot desk which is substantially lower than co-working spaces in Bali and Chiang Mai where average monthly packages cost US$100 and US$120. 

Other than iCube, other interesting co-working spaces are MaGIC Sarawak and The 381 Hub

If you’d rather work from a new location every day, we’ve got you covered! There are plenty of cafes around town where you can set up shop. Here’s a list of some of the most aesthetically pleasing and work-friendly cafes in and around the city centre: 

  1. Tease by Jase’s Tea House
  2. Commons at The Old Courthouse
  3. The Coffee Clinic
  4. Kai Joo Cafe 
  5. Coffee Obsession

After-work shenanigans

We’re going to give it to you straight. If you’re a party animal, Kuching isn’t for you. [Pro tip: You can always head to Kuala Lumpur and paint the town red there!] 

Drinks and Art. What better way to relax after a long day of work? Source: Aish Mann

However, if you like to unwind and chill with a cold beer and good ambiance, there are a number of places you can try. Note, a bucket of four beers in Kuching usually costs around US$8. 

  1. Bear Garden
  2. Drunk Monkey Old Street Bar
  3. The Wayang
  4. Monkee Bar Bistro
  5. Borneo Rednecks  

A stay in Sarawak isn’t complete without Tuak. Tuak is a Sarawakian rice wine. You can usually find it at bars around Kuching. Try it, but be careful…

What else is there to do?

After working diligently and finishing a few months’ work in a few days, you’re bound to want to do some touring. 

Other than a promising, laid back, and focused environment, there are plenty of activities to help you get close to nature. 

When you’re looking to get out of the city, you can head to sites around Kuching. Check out our articles on the magnificent caves and peculiar wildlife found in Sarawak. You can be soaking in a natural hot spring or exploring millennia-old caves in a matter of hours!

Miri is an interesting destination, more lively than Kuching, it also has the best dive sites in Malaysia. Subscribe to our newsletter to get content like this sent straight into your inbox! 

All in all, Kuching is a perfect destination for digital nomads because of how gentle it is. If you’re a digital nomad looking for an affordable, tranquil place to get some work done, Kuching should definitely be on your radar. 

 

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Tourism Malaysia

Battling the Waves in Malaysia

People like us are most likely to stay far, far away from the beaches during the monsoon, which usually occur from October to March if we are talking about the east coast in Peninsular Malaysia. But like a secret world, when the monsoon season comes and the islands close their doors to the public; that is when the surfers come out to play. To the uninitiated, monsoon means persistent rain, angry winds and ferocious waves, but to the surfers, it’s just a good day to surf. Indeed, surfing is not my scene at all and it’s not until words got around that a Malaysian surfer won third place at the 2019 REnextop Asian Surfing Tour that prompted me to check out our surfing scenes. Malaysia is no Hawaii or Bali but our surfing spots have start making waves among surfers around the world, no pun intended. Let’s check out Malaysia’s top surfing spot.

Cherating, Pahang

Photo: Cheratingpoint

Cherating, a small beach town about 45km north of Kuantan has been a surfing spot since the 80’s; but since surfing is not part of our culture, it has never been a sport enjoyed by the mass. Nowadays, we can see that the surfing community in Malaysia has grown bigger and stronger. There are even many surfing schools in Cherating.

Photo: Didaqt Surf FB

I don’t speak the surfer’s language but from what I gather the waves in Cherating are consistent and are suitable for beginners, intermediate, advanced and longboard surfers. It’s a good place for beginners to learn surfing, while the more experienced surfers can enjoy a swell that goes up to five foot. For a “hodad” like us (a term surfer uses for a person who hangs around the beach and does not surf), there are also other activities to try your hands at such as turtle-watching, kayaking, kitesurfing and windsurfing.

How to get there:
By Bus
From Kuala Lumpur international airport (KLIA), take a train (KLIA Transit) to the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) Bus Terminal – Check here : http://www.tbsbts.com.my. From TBS, please take a bus to Kemaman Town.
Kuala Lumpur (TBS) – Kuantan – Cherating – Kemaman Town – Kuala Terengganu – Kota Bahru . This is the normal route to east coast.
*note: Let the bus driver know that to drop you at Kampung Cherating Lama (Old Cherating Village).

By car
From Kuala Lumpur , just follow the east bound highway towards Kuantan and Kemaman. Normally, it takes about 3 hours to reach Cherating.

Pantai Batu Burok, Terengganu

Photo: Terengganu SURF Community

The strong waves of the South China Sea makes the beaches and idyllic islands of Terengganu ideal for surfing. To the local and international surfers, Pantai Batu Burok is well-known for its beach breaks surfing. Over the last 10 years, various international surfing competitions have been held in Pantai Burok regularly, thus helping this beautiful sandy beaches with casuarina trees lining up the shore, to gain international recognition. In Terengganu, there are at least 15 other surf spots to be explored along the coast from Kemaman to Besut. Merang in Setiu, for example, is suited for point breaks, while Pulau Kapas is ideal for reef break surfing.

Photo: Terengganu SURF Community

How to get there:
Batu Buruk and the surrounding beaches are easily reached from Kuala Terengganu by bus (Marang / Dungun), mini bus (No.14 / 13), trishaw and taxi or even on foot if you like walking (about 20 minutes from the city center). (www.backpackingmalaysia.com).

Desaru, Johor

Located in Kota Tinggi, Johor, Desaru has a few surfing spots that are worth mentioning. Among them are Pantai Desaru, Pantai Tanjung Balau, Pantai Sedili and Pantai Wild Boar.

Pantai Desaru is a great spot for beginners to learn to surf. The best time to surf here is in the early morning when the waves are in best condition with a less crowded beach.

Pantai Tanjung Balau is only 13-minute drive from Pantai Desaru and is home to a strong local surf community and even hosts its own international surfing competitions. Sandy breaks and three-foot-high waves make it an excellent spot to learn to surf.

Every surfing season, Pantai Sedili, a hidden beach located along the road of Sedili is always crowded with surfers especially during “good waves” day as the surfers called it. As the beach is quite isolated, you must bring your own food and drinks because there is no public facilities there.

Photo: Big Foot Industries

Wild Boar Beach is the most secluded surfing spot compared to the other three beaches in Desaru. Aptly named after the local animal that resides in the area, the beach is so secluded that you need a local guide to show you the spot. Surfers have to bring their own food and water supply because the beach has zero facility but these inconvenience means nothing to them as long as they get to have a long uninterrupted ride on sandy breaks.

How to get there:
A one hour drive from Johor town, along with the way to Desaru, palm oil plantation can be seen and a bridge will be connecting the route to Desaru through the Senai Desaru expressway. Driving is recommended to get to Desaru because it is faster and convenient.

For public transportation to Desaru, there are direct Mara Liner coach services four times a day from Johor Bahru’s Larkin Bus Terminal to Bandar Penawar via Kota Tinggi. Besides that, there’s an option of taking a non-express bus from Larkin Bus Terminal (Maju 227 or Causeway Link 66) or from downtown Johor Bahru’s Jalan Wong Ah Fook (Transit Link 41, Maju 227, Causeway Link 6B; the bus stop is opposite City Square) to Kota Tinggi’s bus terminal (duration about 1h; Maju 227 one-way fare from City Square RM4.80; average frequency of Maju 227 is 15 min), and then take another bus from Kota Tinggi to Bandar Penawar (duration max. 1h, one-way fare RM4.50, frequency every 90 min). (Travelistaclub)

Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, Kudat, Sabah

Photo: www.borneo360.com

Kudat in Sabah has long been a favourite surfing spots among Malaysian and Bruneian surfers. Located at the Tip of Borneo in Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, the Kalampunian Beach has waves that can reach up to 6 feet high with 50 to 100 meters ride. The type of break here is beach breaks and pointbreaks. It is an ideal spot for those with advanced surf skill set. But for the non-surfers, Kudat’ sandy beaches and crystal clear water is reason enough to hang around the beach; or maybe, just maybe you will be entertained by the tricks and twists of the surfers while chilling by the beach.

Photo: Bahzi Damit

How to get there:
The Tip of Borneo is about 215 KM north of Kota Kinabalu. You need to drive about 2.5 to 3 hours on a paved road (with a few small sections of gravel road) to reach there (via Kota Kinabalu → Tuaran → Kota Belud main road). Or you can charter a taxi (can take 3 or 4 passengers) for a return trip for about RM240. (mysabah.com)

Tidal Bore of Sarawak

Photo: abadiphotography

I wonder whether those experienced surfers dare to fight a tidal bore in Sri Aman’s Batang Lupar River, which is famed for its crocodile-infested waters. The tidal bore in Sri Aman, which is located 170km from Kuching is rated among the best bores in the world. A tidal bore may take on various forms, ranging from a single breaking wave front with a roller, somewhat like a hydraulic jump to undular bores, comprising a smooth wave front followed by a train of secondary wave (whelps). The tidal bore is a high wave caused by the meeting of two tides or by a tide rushing up the narrow river estuary. Its height depends on the time of the year, weather and phase of the moon. Sri Aman hosts the annual Tidal Bore festival known as ‘Pesta Benak’, normally held in the month of May.

How to get there:
To get to the town, board a bus at Kuching Sentral Transportation hub. The hub is a 5-minute drive from the Kuching International Airport and 20 minutes from Kuching City Centre. On average, it takes about four hours to travel by road from Kuching. Usually, bus will stop at the bazaar town of Lachau for toilet break.

Sunway Lagoon’s Surf Beach, Selangor

Photo: Sunway Lagoon

Sunway Lagoon’s Surf Beach is a man made wonder right here in the city where holiday makers all around the world come for a fun filled day in the sun. You can either laze in the beach or for the thrill seekers you can enjoy surfing or body boarding and beach volleyball. You can also show off your surfing skills on Malaysia’s only Surf Simulator or ‘FlowRider’*.

Stretching over 13,000 square meters, the Surf Beach is capable of churning out perfectly shaped waves up to the maximum height of eight-feet. The ability to condition the waves according to the needs of the surfers in terms of height, time and wave patterns make Surf Beach @ Sunway Lagoon a surfer’s paradise for both professional and aspiring surfers.

How to get there:
By Car
Sunway Lagoon is located in the bustling township of Sunway City, within the district of Petaling Jaya in the state of Selangor. It is a mere 15-minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur in smooth traffic conditions and is accessible via a network of expressways including the Federal Highway, Damansara-Puchong Expressway, New Pantai Expressway and KESAS Highway.

Surf Wall, Adventure Waterpark, Desaru Coast, Johor

Photo: Adventure Waterparks Desaru Coast

A safe and high-energy surf simulator where surfing beginners or enthusiasts can catch and ride a radical artificial wave. The Surf Wall can accommodate up to five boogie boarders or two stand-up surfers at one time.

How to get there:

By Car
4 hours from Kuala Lumpur via the North-South Expressway.

By Air
1 hour from Kuala Lumpur to Senai International Airport with additional 1 hour for shuttle to Desaru Coast.

Suddenly I feel the urge to join the monsoon mayhem and pick up the surfboard myself. Paddle,paddle, paddle, and stand up… bruddah!

Featured image is courtesy of andiaceh/ombok

Article source: http://blog.tourism.gov.my/feed/

Categories
Malaysia Travel Guide

Beautiful Birds Of The Blue Bornean Skies

The jungles of Borneo are a world like no other. Alive with a smorgasbord of magical wildflowers, exotic, wide-eyed creatures and a cacophony of noise. But what goes on above the dense, magical jungle that keeps our world alive? On a typical day, the skies over Borneo feature a breathtaking array of vibrant colours. Our beautiful birds feature remarkably vivid plumage that paint a delightful canvas against the baby blue tropical backdrop.

Surprisingly, while many people are aware of Sarawak’s diverse ecosystem, not many know we are also home to an array of stunning birds.

So whether you’re an avid birder or just love the site of magnificent creatures swooping effortlessly across the jungle canopy, when you come to Sarawak, don’t forget to look up!

To make it easier, we’ve created a compilation of some of the birds you can expect to see on your next visit. Oh and one other thing, just remember the best time to see these birds is at first light and for an hour or so afterwards.

The Bornean Banded Kingfisher

These skilful divers are rare in Java, scarcer in Sumatra, and extinct in Singapore! Luckily for you, they are flourishing in Sarawak. Although they are small and sometimes difficult to spot, they are strong, excitable and sometimes aggressive, especially when humans are around!

You should be able to recognise them from their sturdy red bills. Once you’ve spotted one, try to track it to a water source and watch it catch fish effortlessly.

All rights reserved by liewwk – www.liewwkphoto.com

You can differentiate males from females by their plumage: The male has a bright blue crown with black and blue banding on the back while the females are rufous with black banding on their head and upperparts.


The call of a Bornean Banded Kingfisher captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Where to spot them: These nifty hunters can be found in the lowland rainforests of Kubah National Park.

Asian Paradise Flycatcher

Sporting long fancy tails, these birds require a bit more effort to see but are definitely worth the investment. Especially the male as he struts about, flaunting his elegant tail. Chestnut, white or a mixture of both – The plumage of males come in several interesting variations depending on where they are from!

Source: Lawrence Neo 2015

The females look like their chestnut male counterparts, except they have significantly shorter tails and smaller crests.

The call of an Asian Paradise Flycatcher captured by Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS

Where to spot them: They are mostly found in Northern Sarawak, especially in Gunung Mulu National Park and Pulong Tau National Park.

Banded Broadbill

This bird stands out because of their vibrant plumage – against their purplish-black plumage are yellow/lime green markings! They also have piercing blue eyes and a luminescent blue beak that looks like it has been been made-up with “black lipstick”.

Source: Lawrence Neo 2012

In photos, they may look canary-sized, but these birds are actually quite big! Measuring at 21.5cm to 23cm, they feast on insects, especially grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars and larvae.

The call of a Banded Broadbill captured by Tan Kok Hui

Where to spot them: The Banded Broadbill usually lurk in lowland forests, so you can expect to see them at Kubah National Park, Mulu National Park and Batang Ai National Park.

Bornean Bristlehead

This enigmatic bird gets its name from its crown, which are short projections that resemble bare feather shafts. They are often compared to crows wearing red muffler scarves!

In many parts of Borneo, the Bornean Bristlehead has had a tough time and its population has declined significantly. Amongst the birdwatching community, they are on the ‘most wanted’ list and some will even pay good money for local knowledge on where to see them!

Birds of Borneo - Bornean Bristlehead

Source: http://www.hkbws.org.hk (Godwin-C)

So if you are one of the lucky ones to see this beautiful native of Borneo, make sure you whip out your camera, take a picture and remember where you are because it might just be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you also get paid for!

The call of a Bornean Bristlehead captured by Marc Anderson

Where to spot the Bornean Bristlehead: These birds can be spotted in a few locations. Most recently, they have been sighted in Similajau National Park which is 25km northeast of Bintulu. They are also more regularly seen in Lambir Hills National Park.

Scarlet-rumped Trogon

Nope, these birds aren’t characters from Angry Birds, even though they look like one! The Scarlet-rumped Trogon sport a black hood and red body, along with white-black wings and tail. You can definitely tell them apart from their distinctive blue ‘eyebrow’, which gives them their grumpy look!

Birds of Borneo

Source: Ryan Maigan Birds

The call of the Scarlet-rumped Trogon has been used in many Hollywood films that feature lush green jungles! Many people have associated this bird’s call with the tropics of the southern Pacific Ocean. It’s interesting to think that even though most of the world has heard their voice, they belong to our very own forests!

The call of a Scarlet-rumped Trogon captured by Mike Nelson

Where to spot the Helmeted Hornbill: These birds can be found chirping their days away in lowland primary forests like Kubah National Park, Mulu National Park, and Batang Ai National Park.

Peregrine Falcon

If you think the cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, think again! OK, well technically it is but in the sky, you’ll find a bird that can glide effortlessly past a cheetah in full flight. The peregrine falcon has no problem cruising at speeds of 40-60 mph, but when in pursuit of their prey, they can reach up to 200 mph. That’s 293 feet per second and almost 3 times as fast as a cheetah!

© Jesse Gibson

At one stage on the verge of extinction, thanks to robust recovery efforts in North America, the Peregrine Falcon population has now recovered. However, only a lucky few spot them in Sarawak, and with their their bullet-train like speeds, you need to be extra observant when trying to spot one!

The call of a Peregrine Falcon captured by Lard Edenius

Where to spot the Peregrine Falcon: Peregrine Falcons are an elusive species in Sarawak but the best place to spot them is at the peak of Batu Lawi Hill, which now serves as an extension to Pulong Tau National Park.

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Delving into Sarawak’s Magnificent Caves

Bizarre wildlife found in the jungles of exotic Borneo

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Categories
Tourism Malaysia

CHASING WILDLIFE IN SABAH

They say travel broadens the mind, and I totally agree with that statement. However, the more I travel, the more I begin to appreciate all things back home, be it food, culture, nature or even our wildlife. I mean we saved enough money to go all the way to Africa for example, so that we can see the lions or cheetahs running wild in their own habitat but did it ever cross our mind to do the same thing in our own country. Do we even know what kind of species of wildlife that are unique to our country or native to the Asian region?

I wonder whether we care enough about our wildlife to do at least the simplest thing or take the smallest step to conserve and protect our animals whether they are endangered or not.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Lahad Datu

My quest to learn more about our wildlife had taken me all the way to the east coast of Sabah, Lahad Datu, to be exact. It is where Tabin Wildlife Reserve, the largest of its kind in Malaysia is located. Mind you, it took me about 3 hours and 20 minutes to reach the wildlife reserve from the airport in Tawau. I chose to stay at the river lodge owned by Tabin Wildlife Resort, which was located within the wildlife reserve.

The mummified remains of Puntung

While waiting for
the sun to go down so that I could go for the night safari, I took the
opportunity to visit its Visitor Centre to learn more about the wildlife
reserve. This was where I met Puntung, well, the mummified remains of her, that
is. Puntung was one of the last trio of the Sumatran Rhinos that lived in
captivity at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve after the species was declared extinct
by the Government of Malaysia in 2015. I could hardly hold back my tears when the
guide told me the story of Puntung’s life. When they found her in the wild in
2011, she was missing a front left foot, believed to be caught in a poacher’s
snare when she was a baby and yet she survived for so many years in isolation.
However, Puntung had to be euthanized in 2017 because she was suffering from
cancer.

Last May, we also lost the only male rhino we had, Tam, who died of old age. Right now, Iman is the nation’s sole remaining member of its species in Malaysia but she is also suffering from cancer. The Borneo Rhino Alliance or BORA, a non-profit company, had tried so hard to keep the Sumatran Rhinos from going extinct but it wasn’t meant to be. The heartbreaking story of our Sumatran rhinos made me feel helpless but at the same time just made me more determined to go and see our native animals in the wild as many as I can before they disappeared.

Finally, the time had come for me to take a ride on the makeshift truck to hunt for the nocturnal animals in the wild, and instead of a rifle, I was equipped with camera and handphones. I was hoping to see some magnificent creatures along the way, but unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough. However, I did get to see the pygmy elephants’ droppings and footprints though. I suspected my guide was one of those nocturnal creatures himself because his eyesight was so sharp, he could spot a small flying squirrel on top of the trees in the dark of the night. For the first time ever, I got to see a flying squirrel glided through the air between trees in the blink of an eye, thanks to my guide.

Searching hard for the nocturnal creatures

We spotted a Buffy Fish Owl trying to capture its victim at the lake, hornbills, a family of civets climbing up the trees probably looking for a new home, a couple of Bornean wild cats roaming between the tall grass looking for rats and that’s about it. It’s probably not much but the experience was exhilarating and it was such a great feeling to know that our wildlife can roam free at this wildlife reserve and I could just imagine the orangutans making their nests to sleep at night deep in the forest, and somewhere out there the pygmy elephants (the world’s smallest elephant) were having the time of their lives. And also, during the whole journey, don’t forget to look up because you will get to see all the beautiful twinkling stars with your own naked eyes, something that you can’t experience in the big cities.

Having fun at the Lipad mud volcano
A hornbill is spotted perching on top of the tree

The next morning, I went for a short hike to check out the well-known Lipad mud volcano and I was so glad to see an eagle, one of the eight species of hornbill, a monitor lizard and the macaques along the way. The active Lipad Mud Volcano is an elevated muddy hill with warm, salty mud bubbling from below the surface almost continuously; occasionally, the mud volcanoes have mild eruptions that add to their height and scatter small stones around. It is an area frequented by wildlife and birds for much-needed minerals and nourishment – and the evidence is in the foot/paw prints left behind on the grey mud. I saw a few footprints of the pygmy elephants at the mud volcano. While there, I came across a couple of tourists returning from the mud volcano and was informed that they camped all night at the observation tower at the mud volcano to spy on the animals that visited the place at night. Oh my, why didn’t I think of that?

Kinabatangan River, Bilit Village

My plan to chase the wildlife of Borneo did not end at Tabin Wildlife Reserve. This lowland part of Sabah has plenty of spots for wildlife sightings. I took another one hour and a 22-minute journey to the Lahad Datu airport to fly to Sandakan for another wildlife adventure. After the half an hour flight, I arrived at the Sandakan airport and went straight to Bilit in Kinabatangan, which took me about 2 hours and 9 minutes to reach the place. I chose to stay at the Mynes Resort, which was situated on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. Upon arriving at the resort, my guide brought me straight to the jetty for a river cruise. My aim was to take a closer look at Sabah’s most famous primates – the proboscis monkeys or also known as the “dutch monkeys”, as well as the orangutans.

Baby proboscis

The cruise took about 45-minutes and at first all I saw were the macaques and gibbons until the boatman suddenly steered the boat closer to the river bank, and that was when I saw a male proboscis monkey with its harem munching on leaves while sitting on the branches on the top of the trees. Oh, what a beautiful sight! Endemic to Borneo, these endangered monkeys are easily recognisable because of their comical appearance e.g. big noses and protruding bellies. Compared to other exotic creatures in Sabah, the proboscis monkey is the most likely to be spotted in the wild, due to their proximity to the rivers. I was a bit disappointed about not being able to spot orangutans, pygmy elephants or even Irrawaddy dolphins, but sunset at the Kinabatangan River was simply breathtaking, that I can guarantee.

The next morning I took another chance on the river cruise because I wanted to see more of the wildlife there. Lo and behold, I got more than I bargained for because my guide spotted a huge female crocodile on the river bank patiently waiting for its prey while a baby crocodile was playing near the water. I was, you can say, entranced by the size and beauty of the crocodile. This was my first time seeing wild crocodiles in their natural element. It was exhilarating but also a bit scary. I could just imagine their massive jaws crushing down on their victim before drowning it. But that was the highlight of my morning cruise though. On the way back, I spotted a troop of silver leaf monkeys, and pig-tailed macaques. Not bad for an early morning cruise but I was a happy camper, after all I was dealing with nature, and they didn’t follow our rules, we followed theirs. So I left Bilit with beautiful memories and headed back towards the city of Sandakan for another 2-hour plus journey.

Sandakan

I know that orangutans live a solitary existence so it is almost impossible to see them in their natural habitat, which was why I made the decision to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, located about 25km north of Sandakan. This internationally well-known centre helps rehabilitate the orphaned, injured and displaced orangutans before returning them to the wild. I arrived early to secure the best spot at the feeding platform so that I could get a closer look at our beloved orangutans. I started to get excited when I saw two rangers arriving with fruits and sugar canes and placing them on the feeding platform, approximately 60 feet from the viewing platform. It was just my luck I guess, no orangutans turned up to eat the fruits that day. So many international visitors were there waiting patiently for the orangutans to appear but we all left with disappointment.

The youngsters eating and playing in
outdoor nursery

However, fret not because there was an outdoor nursery, which was just a short walk from the feeding platform where you can watch orphaned youngsters at play. I spent almost half an hour observing the youngsters eating and playing behind the glass window. When the youngsters were moved to the outdoor nursery, it meant that they had become more independent and were less emotionally dependent to their care-takers, and for that I am thankful for the hard work done by the staff at the rehabilitation centre.

I ended my quest to see as many wildlife as I can in the lowland of Sabah by visiting one of my favourite animals, the cute sun bears at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSCC), just next to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. The BSCC is the only sun bear conservation centre in the world.  I must tell you that sun bear is listed as vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. So, I suggest that you add seeing sun bear before they disappear in your bucket list. The sun bear is the smallest and the second rarest bear species, after the giant panda. Wouldn’t you feel proud to have such rare bears in your own backyard? Once I met them, it was love at first sight. They were just so adorable, thus making you feel like wanting to protect them from any threat. All 43 of them at the centre were rescued sun bears.

Mary, the lovable sun bear

If you plan to visit
the centre, look up for the lovable Mary, the cutest little sun bear I have
ever seen and she’s very friendly towards us, human despite her sad upbringing.
She was captured by poachers and kept as a house pet in Ranau district (West
coast part of Sabah). Due to her unbalanced diet, she showed symptoms of
calcium deficiency like walking in an abnormal way and shorter body structure.
Now that Mary’s physical condition has improved, she can climb around like
other bears. And if you are lucky, you will get to meet the founder of the
centre, the Penang-born wildlife biologist Dr. Wong Siew Te who was once hailed
as a CNN Hero. (CNN Heroes is created by the American Cable News Network to
honour individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and
make a difference in their communities).

It is my hope that this article can help evoke the interest among Malaysians to visit the east coast of Sabah to see the wildlife that is endemic to Borneo. Many of them are either extinct, endangered or vulnerable, so it is not too late for us to explore those places and the most important thing is the proceeds will go to protecting more habitats and conservation activities. It means that playing tourist can actually help save, protect and conserve our wildlife.

Tabin Wildlife Resort:
Location: KM 49, Jalan Tungku, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +6 088 267266
E-mail:[email protected]
GPS Location: 5° 11′ 15.35″ N 118° 30′ 8.47″ E
Website: http://www.tabinwildlife.com.my
FB: https://www.facebook.com/Tabin-Wildlife-Holidays-Borneo–111441605544390/

Myne Resort:
Location: Kampung Bilit, Kinabatangan, Sabah
Tel: +6089 278288 / 278291
E-mail: [email protected][email protected]
Facebook: Myne Travel Resort

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Location: Batu 14, Jalan Labuk Sandakan , Sabah WDT200, 9009 Sandakan, Sabah.
Tel: +60 89 633 587
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: http://www.wildlife.sabah.gov.my/?q=en/content/sepilok-orangutan-rehabilitation-centre

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSCC)
Location: BSBCC, PPM 219, Elopura, 90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Tel: ​+60 89-534491
E-mail: [email protected]
Website: https://www.bsbcc.org.my/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/sunbear.bsbcc
 

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