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#JOM! GO: Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me - November 3, 2021

In this Part 2, David Bowden lists five places in Malaysia to view the sunset. A SUNSET is reward for having done the work and now it's time to sit down, reflect, to hydrate oneself with your beverage of choice, order nibbles, gather with friends and mutually agree that this really is living.  This all culminates with the sun receding below the horizon after the obligatory photos and perhaps another chilled beverage. Here are five places in Malaysia where the sun goes down with brilliant colour displays. 

BATU FERRINGHI, PENANG

While I've mixed feelings about swimming in the waters off Batu Ferringhi, I think it does good sunset. All the beachfront resorts are well positioned to capitalise on the sunset that sinks into the Teluk Bahang horizon. A great location is Gustoso by the Beach at the Parkroyal Penang Resort. The setting is casual and I'm almost sure you could arrive barefooted as the tables are on the grass/sand interface. The action begins at 6pm which is perfect for a pre-dinner drink while contemplating the menu and admiring the day's last para-sailing activity. The culinary direction for this alfresco restaurant is Italian with a four-course set dinner for two being popular. 

BON TON RESORT, LANGKAWI

One of my favourite places to relax, especially when there's a sunset involved, is Bon Ton Resort, a Malay-styled village with several heritage houses that were sourced, knocked down and reassembled along a coconut-lined seafront at Pantai Cenang's northern end. The restaurant is open-sided, facing west so sunset views are guaranteed for early diners. The optimal approach for admiring the afternoon display is to arrive at 5pm and occupy an outside table between the pool and the waterfront that morphs into an environmentally-significant wetland. Mezze plates are served from 5pm to 7pm and include offerings like crispy fish with lemon harissa aioli, prawn cakes and lobster satay. The mocktail and cocktail selection is taken seriously and by the time the sun has receded into the Andaman Sea you really won't want to eat elsewhere. Don't even harbour such an idea, especially when the seared beef fillet with mashed potato, mustard and balsamic sauce awaits. Well beyond sunset, you have to stick around for Malaysia's most tempting desserts.  

DAMAI BEACH, SARAWAK

Sometimes, you stumble across a sunset and feel richly rewarded for your fortuitous presence. Damai, one hour from Kuching, is a pleasant coastline and the best beachfront near Kuching.  The Damai Beach Resort has the prime position and its pool is a refreshing place to cool off after exploring the adjoining Sarawak Cultural Village.  While the resort has a bar with sunset views, it's indoors and hardly conducive for sunset admiration. I've sat by the pool on many occasions and drawn up plans on the back of coasters for a simple outdoor bar/restaurant should the management want to employ me as their consultant. 

I've taken the liberty of proposing the working title, 'Sunset Bar' as it's hard to avoid the colourful display over the South China that appears on most evenings. On one such occasion, I captured the ominous sight of dark grey clouds punctuated by a blistering red sky.

FRASER'S HILL, PAHANG

When last in Fraser's Hill I wasn't expecting a dramatic sunset. Being conscious of a photo opportunity, I asked the locals about such a place and received blank looks as if I was asking for an explanation on the meaning of life. Thinking about it, I hadn't seen anything resembling a lookout so I resigned myself to just bumbling around in the hope that the sun would make an appearance somewhere. To save you the embarrassment of aimlessly searching the hills; head along Jalan High Pines just beyond the Jalan Semantan intersection. There's a structure called Fraser's Hill Tower on the right hand side of the road (and not surprisingly, facing west) which I suspect was installed for admiring the sunset. However, they got it wrong; venture a little further up the road between 6pm to 7pm and, with the help of a tripod, photograph the sun setting across the rolling hills. 

KUALA SELANGOR, SELANGOR

A late afternoon at a Kuala Selangor restaurant on Sungai Selangor is a perfect way to admire the river's beauty and fishing activity. The best views are from Taman Sri Penambang located across the bridge on the river's eastern side. Several restaurants including the creatively named River View plus Kinnaree Thai and Yang Ming offer sunset views. There are shops selling fresh and dried seafood. 

#JOM! GO: Taking in the country's magic hour - November 2, 2021

Sunrise or sunset? In this Part 1, David Bowden lists five places in Malaysia that have the best views of the light displays. EVERYONE loves the illuminating rays of a sunrise or sunset. Photographers appreciate that both times are the 'magic hour' as the light is most dramatic at these times.  I'm divided as to which one I prefer but obviously sunrise presents different opportunities to sunset. Upon consideration, I lean more to a sunset than a sunrise simply because sunrise means waking early, bumbling in the dark, getting ready and then stumbling to a sunrise point. However, there's a sense of achievement and bravado with a sunrise but some places are now so crowded, the experience is more circus-like than quiet contemplation of the new dawn, while sunset on the other hand occurs after you've spent the day toiling at whatever you do.  Here are some places that I think are great Malaysian venues for admiring kaleidoscopic light displays of both sunrise and sunset. 

PULAU TIOMAN, PAHANG

Unlike most Tioman Island beaches, Juara is the only one with an easterly aspect making it ideal to admire the sunrise. There are several chalets along the beach and they all afford decent views of the sun as it creeps over the South China Sea horizon. You can also be guaranteed of some rideable waves rolling in along the stretch of golden sand. Turtles also come onto the beach to lay their eggs and there may be some laggards near the water's edge at sunrise.  

MANUKAN ISLAND, SABAH

Seeking and taking local advice is always a good travel tip so when I arrived on Manukan Island within Tunku Abdul Rahman Park offshore from Kota Kinabalu, I couldn't help but notice Mount Kinabalu in the distance. Mind you; it's not hard to miss Malaysia's highest peak as it's visible from many parts. Being cognizant that there was the possibility of a sunrise photo, I asked staff about the direction of sunrise and was given valuable information. 

The advantage of Manukan is that you can overnight at Sutera Sanctuary Lodge located along the beach. Another important fact is that the sun rises an hour earlier in East Malaysia than West Malaysia which means 6am. So, I was up at 5.30am to get into position. The view from Manukan's northern end was perfect as, on cue at 6am, rays of sunlight streamed over the mountain. The window of photographic opportunity is a matter of minutes; afterwards the sunrise becomes direct sunlight. An added bonus was the 6am AirAsia flight taking off from Kota Kinabalu Airport. 

MOUNT KINABALU, SABAH

This is possibly Malaysia's most difficult sunrise as to admire it you have to climb the 4,092 metres of Mount Kinabalu to reach its summit. For mere mortals, this is a two-day exercise but during the annual Climbathon race, runners cover the 26km climb and back in 2.5 hours. The ascent involves registration, accommodation at Laban Rata and an early morning departure to complete the final ascent to Low's Peak for the sunrise. But, there's no guarantee the sun will oblige as more often than not, the summit is covered in cloud.

LAKE GARDENS, KUALA LUMPUR

The residents of Kuala Lumpur are fortunate to have such an expanse of greenery so close to the city centre. There are connecting pathways, bridges and underpasses to KL Sentral so it's possible to reach the park via public transport. For an interesting perspective of the lake and the Sentral Skylight, head down to Lake Gardens at sunset to admire the ever-changing city lights.  

BANYAN TREE HOTEL, KUALA LUMPUR

It's a brave and foolish developer who opens a Kuala Lumpur high rise these days without including a rooftop bar/restaurant. One of KL's classiest downtown bars with altitude plus an open air terrace is Vertigo on the 59th level of the Banyan Tree Hotel. The outdoor section (assuming it isn't raining) is ideal for admiring the sunset behind the KL Tower. Banyan Tree has got urban sunsets covered with Horizon Grill on the 58th floor having an outdoor section and Altitude on the 53rd floor where you might be able to detect a sunset through the urban maze of tall buildings.

#JOM! STAY: Plan away with Airbnb Stays - September 15, 2021

WITH a travel bubble to Langkawi kickstart this Thursday and travel gradually opening up in other states, Malaysians are starting to daydream about finally getting to go on that elusive holiday. Whether you're looking to enjoy some R&R in nature with your loved ones, or indulge in a cozy staycation in the city, here are some stunning Airbnb Stays in Langkawi and more Phase 2 states to help you start planning.

STAYING CLOSE TO NATURE

From lush green hills to crystalline seas, Malaysia offers an amazing variety of nature escapes. Nature lovers will find these Airbnb Stays their ideal retreat, whether in the scenic highlands or by the beach.

The Resthouse in Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu

A wooden house by the sea, entirely on its own, on a promontory, hidden amongst the trees. Artist Hayati Mokthar moved this house from where it was originally located near Ipoh, some 250km away. Built by the British Government between the wars and still in its original form, the house is furnished according to the period. Staying here, guests are required to partake in volunteer work to support the conservation work of the marine life in Pulau Perhentian and Lang Tengah through few options such as a quick beach cleanup at Pulau Rawa, half day tour to Lang Tengah to visit sea turtles conservation site and many more.

Garden Villa in Langkawi, Kedah

Nestled at the foot of Gunung Matchinchang, Villa Tiga @ Datai Valley is a haven for bird watchers and cycling enthusiasts. It is just five minutes drive to the Telaga Harbour, Cable Car, Telaga Tujuh and Temurun waterfalls. The villa is the perfect modern bohemian styled family getaway set amidst a tropical farm and is equipped with a private swimming pool, WiFi and 24 hour security.

Riverside Cottage in Cameron Highlands, Pahang

This Riverside Cottage is hosted by Heahtitude, a Cantonese slang that celebrates the joy of simply chilling around without a care in the world. Housed in a former Farm Worker’s Abode built in the 1970s, with its unique vernacular architecture and interior preserved, the cottage has a modern twist to provide you comfort. It boast a setup of vintage furnishings such as a triptych mirror and old-fashioned cushioned bed frame to exude a feeling back in time.

RELAXING IN STYLE

Stylish and cozy, these Stays combine modern aesthetics with comfort, with easy access to restaurants and amenities such as an indoor garden, swimming pool, gym and suite rooms making them perfect for a quick weekend getaway.

Lorong One Homestay in Malacca

This modern industrial-inspired homestay is located in a quiet neighbourhood of Ujong Pasir in Melaka, boast an indoor garden, two en-suite rooms, four rooms with shared bathroom facilities, and two fully equipped kitchens. A perfect Instagramable staycation for the hip and young at heart, this is an affordable stay.

Rustic Chic Suite in George Town, Penang

This is another Instagrambale staycation ideal for a girls’ getaway. Embrace the contemporary bohemian aesthetics of this updated residence located in George Town. The private space features an en suite bathroom, neutral gray tones throughout, herringbone wood flooring, and access to shared spaces including a garden and living room.

AIRBNB WISHLIST

Inspired by the post-pandemic shift in how people travel, Airbnb introduced more than 100 upgrades earlier this year that give guests even more flexibility when planning for future getaways.

These new upgrades include curated Wishlists at airbnb.com/Wishlists - inspirational collections of Stays and Experiences created by Airbnb that travellers can refer to when planning their next vacation.

Airbnb's new Wishlist sharing feature now also enables guests to easily share their personalized Wishlists with friends and families.

Here are the simple steps on how to create your own Airbnb Wishlist

* On the Airbnb app, click the heart icon on the Stay you like. Click "Create new wishlist" or add it to an existing Wishlist already created.

* To "Create a new wishlist" simply add a name (e.g. "Favourite Beach Villas") and click "Create".

* You can view your wishlists, add to them or create new ones anytime.

* Send an invite to your friends and family to join your Wishlist to make it even easier to plan trips together!

Source: NST

Club Med Cherating is up for sale, with a leaseback arrangement - October 13, 2021

The all-inclusive family beach resort Club Med Cherating, which has been open for 41 years in Pahang, is up for sale, according to sources. Club Méditerranée, or Club Med, is the owner of the property, which was established in 1980. It reportedly opened under Club Med co-founder Gilbert Trigano and Tan Sri Philip Kuok, the eldest of the legendary Kuok brothers. 

The resort operator is rumoured to be looking for a strategic partner to take over the property, said people with knowledge on the matter. Club Med's senior vice-president of commercial Southeast Asia (SEA) and Marketing Asia Pacific (APAC), Vincent Ong, confirmed that the French resort operator is selling, but it was in no rush to dispose of the property. The sale of the "village," if it does happen, is part of the group's strategy of selling assets at a reasonable price and being asset-light, he told NST Property. Club Med, founded in April 1950, operates close to 70 resorts in holiday locations around the world.

The "village" is a Club Med slang term for "resort", which refers to its holistic offerings. He said that Club Med is not looking to cash out of Malaysia by selling the property, but rather to enter into a sale-and-leaseback agreement with the new owner so that it may continue to manage it. "We have owned the property for the past 40 years and are looking for a partner now to take it to the next level. We'll keep it running as part of a long-term lease. Everything in the hospitality industry is long-term," Ong said. 

Club Med Cherating is Asia's first resort. It lies between a tropical forest and the South China Sea. The 85-hectare site is roughly the size of 119 football fields. It has 300 rooms and provides a wide range of amenities as well as a variety of activities in the tropical jungle to its customers. Ong said the resort has been doing exceptionally well, and has been flooded with inquiries since the recent announcement that interstate travel will be permitted beginning October 11. Malaysia resumed interstate and international travel on Monday, after more than 90 per cent of the adult population had been completely vaccinated across the country.

"Our website traffic increased within 24 hours of the 3 p.m. announcement a few days ago. We have never seen such traffic. This weekend, we are at full occupancy, and our revenue is nine times greater. The opening of interstate travel was sweet news to us. "Club Med Cherating is one of Malaysia's hundreds of resorts and hotels. While the opening of the interstate border is good for us, it will be the same for other hotels and resorts," he said.

Fairly good turn out as tourist destinations in Pahang come alive - September 6, 2021

KUANTAN: After months of restrictions, visitors are slowly trickling back to several tourist destinations in Pahang, offering a glimmer of hope for industry players ahead of the monsoon season. Operating under new norms, Pulau Tioman in Rompin, Fraser's Hill in Raub and Kampung Kuala Tahan near Taman Negara in Jerantut are among tourist spots which have reopened to travellers in the state who have completed their Covid-19 vaccinations. Tourism operators describe it as "small steps" towards reviving the industry and returning to the good old days as they hope to see an increase in bookings ahead of the one-week school holidays which begins on Sept 11.

Pulau Tioman's 1108 Tekek managing director Zamari Muhyi said small groups of visitors began arriving on the duty-free island during the weekend before Aug 31. "After going months without any visitors, their presence on the island has been a huge relief. The chalet and food business can earn some income before the monsoon season is expected in November."Those arriving on the island have to make advance bookings and adhere to the standard operating procedures set by the operators. The authorities including policemen are stationed to inspect visitors before they board the ferry and once they reach the jetties on the island," he said when contacted. Zamari, whose chalets at Kampung Tekek were fully booked over the weekend, said restaurants on the island only allow takeaway meals while visitors may enter the water for a swim, but not in huge groups.  "Visitors to the island would book their accommodation in advance so there are no cases of mass arrival. The Mersing jetty in Johor is still closed so only people within Pahang can travel to Teluk Gading, Rompin (formerly known as Tanjung Gemok jetty) to board their ferry to Tioman," he said, adding that the island has achieved herd immunity. Meanwhile, Kuala Tahan's Tebing Guesthouse manager Mohd Abdul Rani Harun said although the National Park had yet to open, some chalets in the village have started to receive guests.

"Small groups of visitors have booked chalets and they participated in boating activities at Sungai Tembeling. There might be limited activities as Taman Negara has not opened but people are eager to leave their homes for a much-awaited outing," he said, adding that some chalets are occupied by contractors and workers involved in road repairs near here. A chalet operator in Kuala Tahan said they had been receiving a lot of bookings from those living as far as Lipis and Rompin, with a majority prepared to travel despite being informed that Taman Negara was still closed.

"Guests will have to provide proof that they have completed vaccination before travelling to Kuala Tahan. Since only people in Pahang are allowed to travel, operators here hope the national park will be opened soon. "Many visitors are trying to secure dates during the school holidays next week but operators have been told to ensure the area will not be overcrowded. Strict measures are in place and operators are not taking any chances."

Meanwhile, a budget hotel operator at Fraser Hill's said the popular hill station had started receiving guests from Pahang since early this month, with the only food court operating in the vicinity allowing customers to dine-in as long as they had completed their vaccination. On Aug 19, Tourism Pahang general manager Kamaruddin Ibrahim had said eight tourist destinations across Pahang that had achieved herd immunity against Covid-19 will reopen in stages.

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