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Racing in Rimba Raid - 5 August 2019

IN a race, skill is one thing; luck is another.

A week before the 2019 Rimba Raid, which has grown to become Malaysia’s most anticipated Enduro race, KTM Factory Rider, Muhd Habibullah, 28, popularly known as Gabit, signed up for a GIVI crash course conducted by Jeremias Israel, an ex-factory rider for Honda Team Rally of Europe, in conjunction with the race. At the race last Sunday, Gabit ended up beating the Chilean pro to defend the title he had won in last year’s the Rimba Raid Mat Daling. The two - Gabit and Jeremias - started as hot favourites for the main Class A category (bikes above 800cc) of the Rimba Raid. Gabit, who is the 2016 FIM Asia Supermoto Champion, was racing on the KTM Adventure 1250 and Jeremias was astride the Triumph Scrambler 1200 XE. Gabit remained humble in victory. He told Cars, Bikes and Trucks that the technical skills he learnt from the crash course conducted by Jeremias, an ex-Dakar racer, helped him greatly during the race.

“I learnt a lot from Jeremias at the GIVI crash course. Throughout the race, in fact, I was applying the hard-braking technique and high-speed cornering that I had just learnt from him during the crash course,” he said. Gabit explained that he was more of a motocross rather than an enduro rider. “The riding styles (motocross and enduro) are different so the techniques that I learnt from Jeremias were really helpful,” he added. Gabit said he hoped Jeremias would return for next year’s Rimba Raid. “Luck was not on his side. He had some technical issues after a crash. Otherwise, I have no doubt, the race would have been his,” he said. This year’s Rimba Raid was the 6th edition and the biggest in terms of participation. A total of 321 riders from 16 countries took part in the two-day event.

Apart from yours truly, three other women took part. There were two women riders for the Dual-Purpose category on Saturday and another two for the Enduro category on Sunday. Sunday’s race was the writer’s maiden Rimba Raid, where she raced in the Enduro Novice category with her regular riding partner Nur Liyana Fazlien Sha’are, both on the 2019 AJP PR5 250 Extreme machines. Unfortunately, Lyn had a technical problem that forced her out of the race. The man behind the Rimba Raid, former Malaysia Airlines pilot Datuk Nik Huzlan, who goes by the nickname Captain Nik, said this year’s race was by far the toughest: only 17 out of 70 riders finished in the main category A where Gabit and Jeremias competed. “Well, I overestimated the skills of some people and the trail that I designed was, I thought, not too difficult. In fact the night before the race I had a sleepless night thinking that it might be too easy for many people. But it turned out to be quite difficult. “Perhaps I was lulled by my familiarity (with the area) so I thought the trail was pretty easy because I did it myself!”

Even Gabit found Captain Nik’s trail tough. He told Cars Bikes and Trucks that he is looking forward to a more forgiving track next year. “I hope next year’s Rimba Raid would be less technical for the DP category so that the riders, including myself, could enjoy ourselves more and finish the race”, he said. This year’s Rimba Raid saw GIVI come in as the title sponsor for the second year in a row. For the first time, the race also caught the attention of the Pahang state tourism. “This is our first time working together with Rimba Raid and we hope that with this collaboration we could promote the state’s attractions, especially around Janda Baik,” said Datuk Idros Yahya, the Pahang Tourism Director. As for yours truly, just being one of the finishers (No 44 out of 44 finishers) was an achievement in itself. The unpredictable river crossings, jutting rocks, slippery ruts and branches dangling perilously overhead were new challenges to be dealt with. It is no wonder then that they call Rimba Raid, the “green hell”. Source-NST

NST Leader: Sprucing up - 27 July 2019

A MUCH anticipated visit to one of Malaysia’s significant landmarks in the city left a family with a bitter taste in their mouths. It was not because of the breathtaking view of the city skyline as seen from the observation deck at a height of some 421m. Rather, it was the hospitality and service, or lack of it, that was accorded to them. Another scenario — the condition of public toilets at some popular tourist spots and parks leaves much to be desired. Sad. Visit Malaysia Year 2020 is just five months away. Are we ready to receive the 30 million foreigners touted to visit us next year? Ready is subjective, what matters is that we should be prepared for any eventuality.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad urged Malaysians to make VMY 2020 a national mission and play a role in the tourism promotion campaign. “The famed Malaysian hospitality must not remain a mere slogan, but translated into action.” Indeed, to rake in the RM100 billion in tourist receipts, the focus should be on bringing in the big players and stakeholders. It is global marketing targeted at the richer and developed countries — trade commissions must be mobilized, VMY slogans and attractions plastered on billboards and tour buses, travel agencies the world over must sell Malaysian holiday packages before others. On the home front, hotels must be spruced up and equipped with multilingual customer relations people. Don’t forget the watering holes, entertainment venues for the young and happening and sarong party girls — the point is, the big spenders must be enticed. For backpackers and nature lovers, woo them with rustic and cozy homestays with breakfast thrown in.

Offer family packages for eco-travel or a guided tour of Malaysia’s 130-million-year-old rainforests, Taman Negara (Pahang) or the Royal Belum Forest (Perak). For lovers of art, culturally, our Mak Yong, wayang kulit, Chinese opera, and Indian performances are not to be missed. But all these would mean naught if the hospitality and service industry do not pull their socks up. An efficient public transport system, with trains, buses and taxis (resolve the Grab issue) to run the entire length and breadth of Malaysia is a must.

Embrace tourism; as hosts, we are required to be courteous and friendly to our guests. But, we should also remember to keep our culture and pride intact — a manual on Malaysian etiquette of the do’s and don’ts would go a long way in educating our guests. A tall order, truly. Understandably, Tourism Malaysia (Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board) has its work cut out for it. Last year’s first nine months’ data only showed 19.4 million tourist arrivals and tourist receipts of RM61.9 billion. Cut down on the bickering and get to work. The ongoing brouhaha on logo and tagline should not cloud our common sense.

There needs to be a sense of urgency because time is of the essence here. Logo and taglines, while needing to be eye-catching, will not do the selling. Roll out previous VMY plans and see what can be improved or added. Time for a reboot, if we want to reach that target of 30 million foreigners and RM100 billion in receipts. Source - NST

Tourism Industry sees 16.9pct growth in first quarter - May 30, 2019

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s tourism industry has seen a promising start this year with growth in the first quarter, registering an increase of 16.9 per cent for tourist expenditure to reach RM21.4 billion compared with RM18.3 billion last year. Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said per capita expenditure also rose by 13.8 per cent from RM2,813.1 last year to RM3,201.8 this year. He said the highest per capita expenditure came from Saudi Arabia at RM11,069 followed by the United Kingdom (RM5,212), India (RM4,712.6) and the United States (RM4,506.2).

“The highest tourist expenditure recorded based on distance is Singapore at RM6.2 billion for the short-haul market, China at RM3.7 billion for the medium-haul markets and the UK at RM483.6 million for the long-haul market.” Mohamaddin said this at a briefing on the Tourism Performance Report between January and March this year. Present were ministry secretary-general Datuk Isham Ishak and Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Musa Yusof.

Tourist arrivals, Mohamaddin said, recorded an increase of 2.7 per cent in the first quarter of this year with 6,696,230 tourists compared with 6,520,218 tourists in the same period last year. Based on monthly arrivals, he said, Malaysia had welcomed 2.195 million tourists in January followed by 2.165 million in February and 2.334 million in March. For the short-haul market, he said, Asean maintained the lead in terms of tourist arrivals and was the biggest contributor of international tourist arrivals to Malaysia with a share of 68.3 per cent, reflecting a 1.9 per cent increase 4.576 million tourists in the first quarter of this year. “The increase was fuelled by positive growth from markets, such as Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“The share for the medium-haul market during the first quarter of this year was 21.9 per cent with 8.6 per cent increase of arrivals to 1.466 million tourists, driven mainly by China, (South) Korea, Japan, India and Pakistan growth.” “The long-haul market recorded a 9.7 per cent share, down by 3.6 per cent with arrivals of 652,032 tourists in the first quarter of this year. “The average length of stay (ALOS) in Malaysia for the first quarter of this year saw an improvement of 1.8 nights from 4.2 nights last year to 6 nights this year.” He said Saudi Arabian tourists recorded an average stay of 10.1 nights, France (8.9), Germany (8.5), and the UK (8.5).

On the drop of tourist arrival from Singapore at 1.5 per cent from 2.667 million in the first quarter of last year to 2.626 million for the same period this year, Isham attributed it to the entry point system issue at the Johor Causeway, which was expected to be resolved by October. “After October, things will improve and will be better by 2020.” On the differences between Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and AirAsia Group Bhd, Mohamaddin said it would not affect the tourism industry and described it as “internal affairs”. In the Tourism Performance Report between January and March this year, it stated that most tourists engaged in shopping at 87.4 per cent, followed by sightseeing in the cities (87 per cent), visiting island beaches (48.7 per cent), swimming activities (41.7 per cent), visiting museums (29 per cent), visiting historical places (28.3 per cent), snorkelling (27.3 per cent), visiting villages (26.5 per cent), and visiting theme parks ( 22 per cent).

Top shopping items bought by tourists are handicrafts and souvenirs at 82.3 per cent, foodstuff (81.9 per cent), apparels (79.3 per cent), cosmetics (51.9 per cent), household goods (49.8 per cent), shoes (44.2 per cent), fragrances (34.3 per cent and chocolates (31 per cent). It listed Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya as the most popular destinations visited by tourists followed by Johor, Melaka, Sabah, Pahang, Sarawak, Penang and Kedah.




A durian story: Gamble pays off for Felda settler - 21 July 2019

PEKAN: Uncertainty in oil palm prices in 1984 saw settler Ismail Sabri growing durian on his land in Felda Chini 3, near here. Ismail, 60, planted durian kampung on 0.8ha. The father of four has 65 durian trees and during each harvest, he can earn thousands of ringgit. He even has enough durian to give to his friends and relatives. “In the 1980s, the government had yet to mark the border for Felda plots. “Many settlers were worried that if they planted other crops other than oil palm, someone else would reap the benefits when the (oil palm) trees matured. “Since oil palm prices were unstable, I decided to take a risk and plant durian on a 0.8ha plot,” he said, adding that he started harvesting the fruits in 1991.

He said with guidance from elderly villagers, he managed to find a suitable fertilizer and cultivation formula so that the trees continued to produce high-quality fruits. He said sales from the fruits were enough to support his family, and they helped him these days when oil palm prices were uncertain. “It is a move that has paid off. Now, I have a stable income and my family can enjoy the fruits. “Sometimes friends will drop by my plantation. I will offer them four durians for RM20. But there are also people who enter the farm at night to steal the durian. My second son helps me keep watch.” Ismail said his concept (planting durian besides oil palm) was similar to the one proposed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during the recent Felda Settlers Day celebration in Felda Selancar 3, Rompin.

“Durian is a suitable alternative crop as it is always high in demand. Proper guidance will enable more settlers to venture into durian farming... they will not regret it.” In Raub, the popularity of the orchard-grown Musang King durian over the last few years has taken the local tourism industry by storm, as visitors throng the town to get a taste of it. Gone are the days when durian orchard owners struggled to market the odorous and thorny fruits. These days, durian stalls are mushrooming in the district and nearby areas. The recent move by the Agriculture and Agro-based Ministry to export frozen whole durian to China has resulted in an increase in demand for the Musang King.

The sole company from Pahang — PHG Ever Fresh Food (M) Sdn Bhd — which is among five outfits in Malaysia given the green light to export the fruit to China, has its hands full meeting orders. One of the company’s partners, Lye Wee Tin, said the factory previously only exported frozen whole durian in the form of pulp and paste, but starting this year, the entire fruit was sent to China. “The people in China can buy the whole fruit and this is good in terms of hygiene and safety. “In future, more companies from Raub may be involved due to the growing demand.” He said the company had to date exported about 50 tonnes of durian to China through two methods — vacuum pack and frozen whole durian — in special boxes that were loaded into containers.

“Only Musang King durian from Malaysian Good Agricultural Practice-certified farms are processed for export. “Durian farmers attach wide nets from tree to tree to collect the falling fruits. There is a huge demand for this variety and the supply is insufficient. “We purchase the fruits for between RM26 and RM38 per kilogramme from farmers before cleaning, grading and sorting them for packing. Raub produces about 40 per cent of the fruits exported to China. We expect the season to end in October."

Lye said durian had a huge following in China, including in Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanning and Chongqing. It was reported that the Agriculture Department had registered 204 varieties of durian, 12 of which had good commercial value and strong demand. The six popular varieties are D24, D160 (Musang Queen), D168 (Hajah Hasmah), D197 (Musang King), D200 (Ochee) and D 9 9. The D197 and D24 are categorised as premium varieties.

Pahang MB introduces changes in first year in office - May 9, 2019


KUANTAN: The Pahang government's strategic approach to bolster its tax collection and introduce a simple process for land transfers are among the highlights of Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail's first year in power in the state. An aggressive approach to collect outstanding tax saw the state government collecting RM181 million in the first four months of this year compared to RM140 million during the corresponding period last year. Wan Rosdy said since there was a high amount of uncollected quit rents and other outstanding taxes, the state government had instructed the State Lands and Mines Office (PTG) to issue the Form 6A (Notice of Demand: Arrears of Rent) to ensure landowners pay up.

“Landowners must pay to the state government and we have to be fair to everyone. As a result, we managed to collect some RM111 million (RM88 million from January until April last year) from land collections, RM26 million (RM24 million last year) from forestry revenues and water collection raked in RM855,411 (RM382,492 last year) between January and April this year. “This is something that we should be proud of as it is not easy to collect an additional RM41 million within four months... numbers don't lie. Awareness to pay up is important so that the government can use the money to carry out works to benefit other people,” he told reporters during an interview in conjunction with his one-year anniversary as the Menteri Besar. Wan Rosdy said besides increasing the state's coffers, he introduced the transfer of land titles and mortgage for “Kasih Sayang” which involves within a family and relatives.

“All applications between the husband and wife, father to children, siblings, grandparents to grandchildren, cousins, uncles, and nephews will be processed within one or two working days. Unlike the past, it was first sent to the district and land office and then submitted to the Land and Mines Office before it was forwarded to the Menteri Besar’s office. “Those who complained that they had to wait for a long time to complete the process in the past are relieved by the new measures which they describe as a simple and faster process," he said. Meanwhile, Wan Rosdy said in a strategic move to restructure and further boost the performance of state-owned enterprises (government-linked companies or GLCs), the Pahang government had established the Pahang Investment Corporation (PIC).

“This allowed the GLC's to boost their revenues and ensure strategic investments. Each investment will have to go through the risk committee which will evaluate if the investment will bring positive returns as we do not want the GLCs to end up facing problems midway through their business or suffer other setbacks," he said. Wan Rosdy said the state government would also soon launch the ‘Pahang Go’ application which will serve as a one-stop centre for digital and online services, including parking systems, e-payment applications, and utility bills. As he enters his second year in office, Wan Rosdy said his focus would be on increasing the state's tax revenues and luring more investors into Pahang. He said during a recent official visit to Singapore, the state government was informed that the investors from the neighboring country were interested to explore opportunities in the agriculture and tourism sector in Pahang.

“Due to the positive response, we are planning a meeting followed by a second visit to Singapore later this year and an agriculture exhibition will be held. Since Pahang has the resources, we will work together to ensure a win-win situation.“After focusing on the south of Malaysia, Singapore is now prepared to explore opportunities in the east coast states and In Pahang, they believe that tourism attractions like Genting Highlands, Tioman island and Cameron Highlands offers a lot of potentials,” he said. On the Barisan Nasional-led state government's relationship with the Pakatan Harapan federal government, Wan Rosdy said if there were issues, it would be discussed by both parties as the rakyat remains as the main priority.“When there are issues, we will discuss with the federal government to find solutions. For example, recently the Housing and Local Government Ministry, through its minister (Zuraida Kamaruddin) approved an additional allocation of RM4.4 million during her visit here. We informed her that Pahang has landed so she approved some projects," he said. On May 15 last year, Wan Rosdy was sworn in as the 14th Pahang Menteri Besar replacing Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob who had served as the Menteri Besar since May 25, 1999. Source - NST

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